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Love for labor drives union leader’s career

OBSERVER Photo Doug Stock sits at a table filled with honors and awards in his Fredonia home.

Commendations, honors and plaques surrounded Doug Stock as he sat in the kitchen area of his Fredonia home earlier this week. Though his attention early that Tuesday evening soon drifted to a document he received more than five decades ago that would serve as the beginning of a new journey and mission.

“It’s my letter of termination,” he said opening the envelope, “when I left the school system down there. January 30, 1967 … it’s where I started my union work.”

Stock was born and raised in Staten Island, served in the U.S. Navy and later became employed as an assistant custodian at one of the smaller schools in the borough. Though he enjoyed what he was doing, he tired of the hustle and bustle that came with living in the Big Apple.

A connection through his late wife’s dad, however, would eventually bring Stock to Chautauqua County that year. His father-in-law would hunt in this region with George Shepard, who was the business manager of Local 593 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

As candidates here backed out of an apprenticeship program, Stock was downstate when he received Shepard’s call asking him if he was still interested in coming to Dunkirk. He never gave it a second thought and made his way West.

Fifty-four years after that decision, he is a giant in the local labor community.

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What started as an electrician apprenticeship with Fredonia Electric on the Fine Arts building at the State University of New York at Fredonia became an even greater calling.

After becoming a member of the Local Union 106 IBEW in Jamestown in 1971, he worked and held numerous leadership positions in several labor organizations. Most recently, he served as president of the Dunkirk Area Labor Council, which is part of the AFL-CIO.

Around this past Christmas holiday break, however, Stock finally had a chance to begin to catch his breath. After decades of meetings, travels and working with community business and elected leaders, he decided to take a step back.

Late last month, he ended his long term as president of the council, a position he had held since January 2006. “I met a lot of great people and a lot of great union people,” he said about his time. “I had no family up here. … Most of my friends are all union people.”

As a journeyman electrician, Stock worked on various industrial and commercial projects throughout Western New York. From 1985 to 1999, he became business manager of the IBEW Jamestown chapter and oversaw five funds — including health and pensions — that totaled more than $14.9 million. He also negotiated and handled a number of labor disputes and grievances for a membership of 200 individuals in the public and private sectors.

“He was the guy you would call (in a labor conflict),” said attorney Charles DeAngelo of Fessenden Laumer & DeAngelo. “Everybody trusts him.”

During those 14 years, Stock worked with county and economic development officials on major projects in the north county that included the Dunkirk hotel, which is now the Clarion, expansion of Brooks Memorial Hospital and a number of schools.

In 1999, he became regional coordinator for workforce development with the AFL-CIO and was responsible for setting up rapid response workshops in union facilities and providing assistance during a number of manufacturing layoffs in Western New York. Over a seven-year period in the position, he said he worked with 1,000 laid-off workers annually.

“Doug is a private-sector guy,” DeAngelo said. “He understood those companies need to make money for the workers (to benefit). … He’s one of the key labor people in this county.”

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During the 1970s Stock was active in politics, specifically with the campaign of U.S. Rep. Stan Lundine of Jamestown. Due to his union standing, he was the point person for a number of Lundine’s visits to manufacturing plants across the Southern Tier.

His work for the community and labor, however, went beyond party lines. Besides having solid relationships with former County Executives Joseph Gerace and Mark Thomas and Assemblymen Rolland Kidder and William Parment, all Democrats, he also had high praise for former state Sen. Catharine Young, who resigned from her post in March 2019.

“She was very good working with unions,” Stock said. “A lot of us were really sad to see her go.”

Former County Executive Jack Glenzer, a fellow Fredonia resident and Republican, also appreciated the efforts of Stock. “He once told me,” Stock said, ” ‘You know, you and I are two different people representing two different organizations — Democrats and Republicans. … I’ve enjoyed working with you so much and you always were fair.’ “

Glenzer’s comments define a legacy of relationship building and partnerships that Stock built over the years with not only local officials, but a number of contractors and companies. Besides serving labor, he served for years on the United Way of Northern Chautauqua County board of directors, was a member of the state United Way board and the Western New York 2-1-1 advisory board for two years.

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Through the decades, Stock saw plenty of good, but a lot more of the bad. Western New York lost numerous high-paying manufacturing jobs in the steel and manufacturing industries in the 1980s through the ’90s and most recently, at Carriage House in Fredonia and Dunkirk in 2015.

Nevertheless, Stock remained dedicated to a place he considers home. “I love this area and I wasn’t moving,” he said when discussing the loss of his first wife in 1984. “We had a lot of fun up here. The kids enjoyed it up here and all three went to the schools. I stayed and I became active in the local (unions).”

He also has a hobby that takes him to a number of car shows as a member of the Lake Shore Street Rods Association. His 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle takes him to area shows and he normally participates in the Dunkirk Memorial Day parade.

Don Williams Jr. of Dunkirk is succeeding Stock, who is hoping to stay involved in an emeritus role. “I couldn’t have done any of this without the support of my union brothers and sisters,” he said, noting the encouragement through they years by his wife, Joann.

Moving forward, he plans to continue his role on the county Workforce Investment Board. He notes that both Shepard, who brought him to town, and Joe Granto, a former steel union representative, were key mentors during his early years.

DeAngelo, a respected labor attorney, noted his admiration and respect for Stock’s work and relationships. “He’s a role model for me,” he said. “I look up to him.”

John D’Agostino is the editor of the OBSERVER, The Post-Journal and Times Observer in Warren, Pa. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call 716-366-3000, ext. 253.

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