ITHACA, N.Y. — The Tompkins County Workers’ and Midstate Central Labor Council’s Labor Day picnic is a local tradition that brings hundreds of people from the community together to highlight workers’ rights and the people fighting for them. In addition to the awarding the good, the bad is called out with the “Goat of Labor Award.”

More than 350 people attended this year’s event Monday at Stewart Park, which featured a potluck picnic and music by Alexander Bradshaw and the Labor Day Specials. The theme this year was, “Why a Union? Why a Living Wage?”

As always, an important element of the day were the awards, which are organized into four categories that are given out each year: the Mother Jones Award, the Joe Hill Awards, the Friend of Labor Award and the Goat of Labor Award. Here’s a breakdown of who received awards this year:

The Mother Jones Award

This award is named after the legendary labor activist Mary Harris Jones, known as Mother Jones. She helped organize major strikes and co-founded the Industrial Workers of the World.

Stephanie Hayes — She was awarded for advocating for her co-workers and other in the service and retail industries in Tompkins County. “Stephanie embodies the belief that when you see injustice you must speak out, support one another, and work creatively to ensure our rights and dignity are respected. In addition to being a force of nature, she is a Community Union Organizer with the Tompkins County Workers’ Center,” the Workers’ Center said.

Sandy Ferreira — She was honored for her work advocating for workers and residents at Beechtree Center for Rehabilitation & Nursing. When accepting the award, Ferreira said the award really goes to all of the employees who are dedicated and care for the residents.

The Joe Hill Award

Joe Hill was a songwriter, itinerant laborer and union organizer. He became famous after being convicted of murder and then executed before the international campaign to exonerate him could play out. This award recognizes people who have made sacrifices for labor rights.

Mike Blodgett and Ashley Carman — Blodgett and Carman received the award “for their commitment as father and daughter to make sure that all people can understand the virtual impossibility of living on low wages in Tompkins County,” the Workers’ Center said.

Xavier Rusk — Rusk is a paralegal aide at the Tompkins County Office of Human Rights. He received the award for his “lifelong dedication to advancing human rights and confronting injustice” from his professional to personal work.

The Friend of Labor Award

Hospicare and Palliative Care Services of Tompkins County — They received the award for their services locally and for providing a living wage to all employees in Tompkins and Cortland counties. The Workers’ Center said this was the first time in the history of the picnic that an employer received the Friend of Labor Award.

“Caregiving businesses and organizations that depend on state payments for services are some of the employers most challenged to pay fair wages, but Hospicare has shown that it can be done for many years running. This is the first time the Friend of Labor has been awarded to an employer in the 35 year history of the Labor Day Picnic,” the Center said.

The Goat of Labor Award

For the second year in a row, Cornell University received the Goat of Labor Award. The Goat of Labor goes to “an especially egregious offender” of workers’ rights every year. This year, the Workers’ Center said it went to Cornell for three reasons: for building its Maplewood development with non-union labor and displacing over 600 students. They also cited concerns with the university’s treatment of Cornell Graduate Students United union.

View a video recap of the event below by Ithaca Voice Videographer Jacob Mroczek.

Video by Jacob Mroczek/The Ithaca Voice
Text by Kelsey O’Connor

Kelsey O'Connor

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.