More truth than fiction at this rally

Many readers and commenters to the OBSERVER and its web site claimed the rally in Fredonia last week showing support for Carriage House workers and their families was too little, too late.

Even Sam Hoyt from state Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office admitted there likely was nothing that could be done to change the situation in his remarks at the May 29 gathering. Hoyt said the “stupid” decision by ConAgra to close the facility, affecting 425 jobs, could not be reversed.

But when you consider the history of recent demonstrations around the region – and there have been many – this one made more sense than the others.

Most of the rallies in this day and age come about because it involves a public entity, be it a school or governmental facility, that is on the verge of being downsized or is facing a monumental change in the way it operates. The entities are not closing and shedding hundreds of jobs, they are just no longer operating within their financial means.

These rallies take full advantage of a fear factor, a lack of knowledge and a false sense of community pride.

“If things do not stay the same,” the rally cry can be heard, “then there are grave uncertainties ahead.”

Normally, those scare tactics are exaggerated or complete untruths. Consider some of these rallies in recent years:

Save Our School – In 2009, a group of Brocton district residents who feared a possible merger with Fredonia told far too many who would listen that things really would not be that bad in the future if its shrinking school did not merge. Fear of the unknown and misinformation led to Brocton defeating the first merger vote that December. Four months later, residents were rewarded with fewer academic programs, numerous school layoffs and a massive tax hike they had been warned about during that failed merger process.

Save our Home – In the changing world of health care, a publicly run nursing home that provides excellent care is a losing proposition financially. Across the state, counties have been getting out of the nursing home business in recent years. Chautauqua County is now moving in that direction as well, after officially approving the sale of the Home to VestraCare in February. Despite numerous rallies held to keep the Home under county ownership, the new ownership group of VestraCare has taken an active role at the facility and is already looking at expansion and adding jobs. It is something the county could not even begin to undertake.

Send us more aid – This was another rally promoting the spending of millions of taxpayer dollars for our overabundance of high-spending area schools in the region, though nothing was closing. In March, more than 500 area school leaders gathered in Ellicottville to have a pity party in calling for more state aid even though local property taxes to pay for the numerous districts and the system perfect for the 1940s have gone through the roof over the last decade.

Despite these previous rallies, nothing was going to close – and nowhere was 425 jobs going to be lost. These rallies were all about keeping the status quo if for no reason other than fear of change.

Fredonia’s rally for Carriage House workers was about awareness. Awareness for the current workers to receive a severance package when they are laid off and an effort to avert the company from stripping the huge facility of its assets once it leaves town.

Most of all, the rally was about support for all the Carriage House workers who worked around the clock – even on holidays – because it was their job.

Some have said ConAgra’s leaving has to do with corporate greed. Problem with that excuse is there is greed in all aspects of our life.

There is even greed in those rallies to save schools, the County Home and seek additional funding. Those events, no matter what side you were on, were all about “want.”

For years, workers at Carriage House have been a vital part of our economy. Not only did they shop and live locally, they also were huge supporters of our schools, governments and non-profits.

If we rally for entities that are not closing, then why not come together for a group of workers who have contributed so much to our region and are being displaced by a decision that is out of their control?

About 250 people were in attendance for that event that lasted less than one hour. Why weren’t you?

John D’Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to or call 366-3000, ext. 401.