Clean water advocate wins local labor recognition award

Emerald, Wis. resident has worked tirelessly to protect community from water pollution.




2 minute read

Virginia Drath and family at her award reception. (Submitted)

Virginia Drath of Emerald, WI in St. Croix County, won this years “Labor Recognition” award for her tireless efforts on water quality for rural families in her neighborhood. Laurie Gruber, Secretary of the Greater West Central Area Labor Council (GWCALC) presented Virginia with the award during their Labor Fest Event earlier this month.

AFSCME Retiree Chapter 63’s President Carolyn Kaiser shared, “AFSCME has stood for equality and social justice issues both inside and outside of the workplace for decades. Virginia has stood with her neighbors and advocated for clean drinking water in rural St. Croix County for years. AFSCME is proud of her efforts!”

Kim Dupre nominated Virginia for this award, “Virginia spent many years as a union member in St. Croix County. Her career in nursing highlights her natural empathy and care for people, no matter their condition. Thus, it was a natural progression for her to take up the clean water issue for herself and her neighbors. Nothing is as basic for human survival as clean drinking water. After the massive spill/cleanup at Emerald Sky Dairy in 2017, she put her union activist hat on and started circulating petitions, paying for water test kits out of her own pocket and distributing those to neighbors, talking to anyone she met in the store, doctor’s office, or golf course about clean drinking water and encourage them to get their well tested. She doesn’t quit easily….. she has spent countless Saturdays at the town dump handing out flyers informing her neighbors the latest news.

“She kept persisting despite setbacks and continued violations committed by the industrial dairy in her neighborhood. She has traveled the state to meet with legislators, attend public hearings, DNR/DATCP/Conservation Congress sessions, conferences, etc. She has held local organizing meetings in her home, and always with coffee, meal, and dessert! Her positive nature and great sense of humor endears her to all she has met. She exhibits great tenacity despite overwhelming challenges of going up against global corporate agricultural companies. She’s learned how to give touching, heartfelt public comments about her neighbors, admonishing elected officials to put themselves in their shoes and rectify these injustices. She doesn’t mince words — she tells it like it is!

“I couldn’t have found a better friend or partner in this fight…she has kept me going when my batteries were running low. We all owe a debt of gratitude for her going above and beyond the call of duty on behalf of her neighbors and the social justice issue of clean water for all!”

The Greater West Central Area Labor Council recognizes an individual every year who has contributed to the labor movement and helps make lives better for working families. Nominees come from Clark, Barron, Chippewa, Eau Claire, Dunn, Pierce, St. Croix, Polk or Pepin counties. The Greater West Central Area Labor Council is a member of the AFL-CIO.


One response to “Clean water advocate wins local labor recognition award”

  1. Jack Carrick Avatar
    Jack Carrick

    Great to see people get recognition for helping all of us. Thanks Virginia!



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Clean water advocate wins local labor recognition award