John Duffy concluded 48 years of service to UWUA on March 1. Hired at age 17 by Consolidated Edison, Duffy became a member of Local 1-2 and his dedication to the union never wavered. Through five decades of membership, 32 years as a union leader, and 23 of those as a full-time local and National officer, he’s seen solidarity in action and has always generously shared his knowledge and experience to the benefit of UWUA’s members.
When first elected National vice president back in 2007, Duffy pledged to “take a multi-pronged approach – political action, energizing members, internal organizing, external organizing – to take on the many issues facing this great union and its membership.” He’s done just that, travelling the country meeting with local leadership and members, helping with negotiations, walking picket lines, lobbying for state and local ordinances, and doing whatever else he could to help UWUA members.
Duffy says he’s proud of having gone into the trenches with members during many successful corporate campaigns and contract struggles and of the trust they placed in him. “But more than anything, I’m most proud of the solidarity and tenacity shown by the membership. They’ve always stood up for what is right and have shown time and again they will fight for justice in the workplace and in their communities.”
He appreciates the uniqueness of the UWUA. “Even though we’re not a huge national union in terms of numbers of members, pound for pound we pack a pretty good punch,” attributing that strength to a combination of the close ties between the National and locals and the exceptional staff of national representatives who have helped the smaller locals play at the same level as the larger locals in terms of bargaining and advocacy.
President Slevin expressed the union’s gratitude: “John Duffy has given a lot to this union. Over many years, he’s worn many hats and was always willing to dig in and do whatever our locals and National union needed. His retirement is well-earned and well-deserved.”
When asked for parting words of wisdom, Duffy was quick to respond:
- “Don’t take our union and your labor rights for granted. Labor is under attack, even in historically labor friendly states. There is no Constitutional guarantee for labor rights, and there are political forces that would like to see our rights taken away. Talk to your new members and engage them in the fight and to build power. They need to understand what’s at stake.”
- “On our own, we don’t have much power to take on the boss, especially when we’re dealing with a multi-national corporation. But together, we have power.”
- “Local officers, do not hesitate to ask the National for assistance! The National is there for all locals, small and large alike, and understands the ripple effects on all of an employer attack on one.”
- “When given the honor and privilege of representing this great membership, honesty and integrity are everything.”
In recent years, Duffy had the opportunity to work closely with Craig Pinkham on many issues and said his decision to retire was easier knowing that he was leaving the union in such capable hands: “It’s time to pass the mantle to this dynamic, young board, and I have full confidence in their ability to lead the UWUA into the future.”
As for what’s ahead, Duffy will participate in this year’s regional conferences, but said that with summer now here, “My sailboat, the Hudson River, and my two sons and grandsons beckon.”