A lifetime dedicated to labor and community
It’s been quite the ride for George Nee since he felt inspired to leave Boston College in 1969 to help organize the grape boycott for the United Farm Workers of America in Dorchester, Massachusetts. The decision would kick off a more than 50-year commitment to labor and the rights of workers.
Now the president of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO, a position he’s held since 2009 after joining the organization in 1983, George Nee is the recipient of this year’s Dante F. Mollo Labor United Award.
"When I think of what the Dante Mollo award represents — an individual who tirelessly fights for equal opportunity for all — there is no question it is George who embodies those traits," says Cortney Nicolato, United Way of Rhode Island’s president and CEO. "His efforts throughout the years have made a difference for literally tens of thousands of Rhode Islanders and their families."
George’s leadership of the Rhode Island labor community dates back to 1971. After the grape boycott proved successful, resulting in union contracts and improved conditions for farm workers, he came here to coordinate a lettuce boycott. Working alongside farm workers who spoke little English, George solidified the right to organize and the power of collective action as keys to allow hard-working people to take control of their economic futures.
A few years later, he organized a number of low-wage Rhode Island jewelry, clerical, and healthcare workers into a formidable group that would become the Service Employees International Union, Local 76. George would serve as its founding president from 1976 to 1983. The rest, as they say, is history.
"Working people have a right to have a voice everywhere decisions are made in Rhode Island and I’ve tried to dedicate my life to making sure people are treated in a just manner," says George. "This award means a lot because I knew Danny Mollo personally… he was a force of nature. Danny preceded 211, but he was his own 211. In fact, I know he would be proud and amazed at what United Way has done with 211. It’s so valuable that people have a single place to call and can get assistance."
With the RI AFL-CIO, George has had a profound impact on the community through advocacy, volunteerism, philanthropy, and influencing policy changes that improved access to opportunities and education for workers. He is actively involved in economic development projects, and serves on the Rhode Island Convention Center Authority and the Human Resource Investment Council to name a few.
Under George’s leadership, the RI AFL-CIO was the first partner to endorse our LIVE UNITED 2025 strategic plan.