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Deserved honor for Ernie LaBaff

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The St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency named its new headquarters building for Ernest J. LaBaff at its meeting Monday. The building also houses the new St. Lawrence Brewing Co. at the Canton Industrial Park.

Mr. LaBaff has been a union and civic leader, dedicated to improving the working conditions for workers across the county and creating a climate that would encourage the creation of jobs for the next generation of workers.

Mr. LaBaff is best known for his work as a union leader at the aluminum plants in Massena, where he rose to become the president of the Aluminum, Brick & Glass Workers International Union. His leadership of that union affected the working conditions of workers all across the United States. Mr. LaBaff innately understood that everyone had to live and everyone deserved to be treated fairly whether they worked in the hot conditions of a smelter or in a corporate office. He understood that without a honest relationship between union and company the union worker suffered.

In his retirement he continued his efforts on behalf of the aluminum industry in Massena by leading local efforts to be sure that the low cost power contract between Alcoa and New York state was extended 30 years. He was never reticent to tell a sitting governor how important low-cost electricity was to the union workers at Alcoa and Reynolds. His efforts have paid off upon the commitment by the state to extend the power contracts Alcoa, which has begun to rehabilitate the old Reynolds plant and bring back hundreds of workers.

Mr. LaBaff said at the meeting, “It’s hard to believe that after all these years that people respect me for what I do.” Well, they do because they know he has been a premier advocate for the men and women of St. Lawrence County all his working life.

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