Snyder honors esteemed local educator, national labor leader

House endorses measures saluting George J. Plava, John Mitchell

HARRISBURG, April 1 – State Rep. Pam Snyder, D-Greene/Fayette/Washington, today won unanimous House support for her measures honoring George J. Plava, a longtime Fayette County educator, and John Mitchell, a renowned national labor leader.

“Sadly, both men have gone to greater rewards, but the good they did while among us will never be forgotten,” Snyder said. “In vastly different ways, they improved the lives and livelihoods of countless residents.”

Snyder said her H.R. 195 eulogizes former Air Force Col. George J. Plava, who returned from World War II with a Purple Heart and a love of family, faith, community and country.

“The former pilot served as a teacher and principal before retiring as superintendent of the Albert Gallatin Area School District,” Snyder said. “Known respectfully as ‘Mr. Plava,’ he was so revered that the former German Central Elementary School in McClellandtown was renamed in his honor.

“Even after his retirement as superintendent, Plava continued to serve on the school board and the boards of the Masontown Library and the Connellsville Airport Authority,” Snyder said. “He lived the creed that he instilled in students -- respect, rights and responsibility.”

The longtime resident of German Township in western Fayette County died Feb. 17, 2015, at age 97.

Snyder’s H.R. 196 designates April 1, 2015, as John Mitchell Day in Pennsylvania.

“John Mitchell very well may be the most influential national leader that most people know little about,” Snyder said. “He started out as a coal miner but is remembered to this day as a visionary whose impact on American industry is the stuff of legends.”

Snyder said that on April 1, 1898, Mitchell helped bring about a national contract in coal-producing states that was a triumph for eight-hour days in the mines, safer working conditions and fairer wages.

“Mitchell overcame prejudices and language and ethnic barriers to forge a coal industry that powered us through the industrial revolution, two world wars and continues to be a vital resource for the United States,” Snyder said. “His skills in labor management and conflict resolution are admired to this day.”

Snyder noted that Mitchell also is celebrated every Oct. 29 in Lackawanna County and northeastern Pennsylvania’s hard-coal country in recognition of his efforts to form the United Mine Workers of America. He later became the UMWA’s fifth president.

“The fitting words, ‘Champion of Labor, Defender of Human Rights’ are etched on the John Mitchell Monument in Scranton,” Snyder said. “It is those beliefs that brought together immigrants from Eastern Europe, Wales, Asia and across the globe to stand united for better working conditions, and we are a better nation for it.”