Spitale To Receive Ritzer Labor Award For Second Time
History will be made at 4 p.m. Sunday during the city’s 39th Annual Greater Jamestown Labor Day Festival.
The recipient of this year’s George Ritzer Memorial Labor Award — George S. Spitale — will be receiving the distinction for the second time, which will be a first in its 34-year history. He received the award for the first time in 1985. He was the head of the American Federation State County Municipal Employees for 22 years from 1980 to 2002.
“I was shocked and I was surprised. I told them they should give it to someone else,” Spitale said about receiving the award for a second time. “I think I’m receiving it for the number of years I’ve (been the head of the Jamestown Labor Management Committee).”
Spitale said in 1984, the late Ben Spitale, who is his uncle, wanted to give recognition to a labor leader who was affiliated with the Jamestown Area Labor Council. The original committee consisted of Ben Spitale, the late Anthony C. Raffa, Peter Thorenson, Doug Card, Michale Piazza and George Spitale.
“They appointed me as chairman because I was the youngest,” Spitale said. “At first, whoever received the award would give it the next time, but (that ended) and I’ve been doing it for the rest of the time.”
Spitale said the labor award was the first of its kind in the state. He said it has been an honor to present the award to so many deserving recipients through the years.
“I enjoyed it. Sometimes it was hard to get their resumes. People didn’t realize all that they had done. I had to ask them questions,” he said. “I made sure the newspaper received it and I wanted it in there before Labor Day so people could come and pay tribute to the recipient.”
Spitale is a third-generation labor leader. His grandfather, Peter Campesi, was the head of the machinist union and his father, Basil Spitale, led the UAW 338. George said his other grandfather, Carmello Spitale, was a member of the UAW 338.
“I got involved in the Labor Council in 1970. I’ve been a member for 48 years,” he said. “I got involved in the union years ago because the older guys wanted me to because I was the youngest guy.”
During Spitale’s time in the union, he has supported a lot of causes throughout the community. From labor committees to Cub and Boy Scouts to coaching youth sports, Spitale has contributed in numerous ways to the community. One community project Spitale is particularly proud of is his work with the Winifred Crawford Dibert Boys & Girls Club of Jamestown. Spitale said for more than 30 years he has been raising substantial amounts of money for the club.
“I got people to donate. I still do it,” he said. “I was concerned the kids wouldn’t have a place to go. It is a pretty good place.”
Spitale received the Silver Cross of New York from former Gov. Nelson Rockefeller in 1970 for service to his country. He served in the U.S. Army from 1966-68, serving in Vietnam with the 1st Air Calvary Division where he eared two Bronze Stars for heroic or meritorious achievement or service. He also received the Army Commendation Medal; Vietnam Service Medal; Good Conduct Medal; National Defense Medal; and the Vietnam Expert M-16 Medal. He was the first commander of the Vietnam Veteran’s Post 865, where he is a life member, and he is also a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 53.