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Branch 9 Letter Carriers president Pam Donato accepts position in Washington, D.C.
Send-off celebrates Donato as 'leader, mentor, and friend'

From the Minneapolis Labor Review, April 29, 2011

By Steve Share, Minneapolis Labor Review editor

MINNEAPOLIS — Anyone clouded by cynicism about the labor movement these days ought to have been at the Italian American Club in Minneapolis April 20. Members of the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 9 and others gathered there that night for a send-off for Pam Donato, Branch 9 president. Donato is moving to Washington, D.C. to work as special assistant to NALC president Fredric Rolando.

More than 100 well-wishers filled the Italian American Club on Central Ave. to honor Donato, who speakers praised as a caring, inspirational leader who also drew out talent from the people around her and mentored new leaders.

“I’ve never met anyone who cares more for the people she’s working for than Pam,” said Lenny Larson, former Branch 9 president.

“I’ve known Pam a long time. The one word I would use to describe Pam is ‘inspirational,’” said Jerry Sirois, president of the Minneapolis Area Local of the American Postal Workers Union. “All the activities you do for your local are inspirational.”

“Pam is great at finding talent in other people who don’t know they have it,” said Jason Karnopp, NALC regional administrative assistant, who rose in union ranks from Branch 9 with Donato as a mentor.

Donato has helped plan leadership retreats for union women and has spoken on panels at those events. “She’s such an inspiration to other women” at all levels of the labor movement, said Barb Kucera, director of the Labor Education Service at the University of Minnesota.

“She worked to involve as many members in as many different things,” even planning a new ice fishing event, said Mike Zagaros, who added that Donato surprised him when she asked him to serve as Branch 9 executive vice president. Zagaros now will succeed Donato as president.

“We have 2,000  members who are a very diverse group,” Zagaros said. “Pam has worked hard to make sure everyone was included.”

Donato, who grew up in Blaine, became a letter carrier in 1986 after serving in the U.S. Army. “It was really an accident,” she related. Attracted by better pay than her job offered, she followed the example of a friend who took a test to become a letter carrier.

Donato, 50, was the second woman elected president of Branch 9. She has served in that position since 2007. She also served the local as steward, financial secretary, and executive vice president.

As a young union steward, she went to the mat with management in defense of members and was fired. NALC intervened and she was restored to her job.

“What we have, what we shared, is just like a family,” said Donato.

“I am absolutely positive the membership… always steered the leadership right,” she added.

“Every one of you will be in Washington…  because you are part of me,” Donato told the group. “You will always be family.”

Donato received a plaque inscribed simply, “Leader, Mentor, and Friend.”

Pam Donato (right), president of NALC Branch 9  in Minneapolis, is moving to Washington, D.C.  to work as special assistant to NALC president Fredric Rolando. At a send-off celebration April 20, Donato was honored by many well-wishers, including Alice Napola (left), who became the first woman letter carrier in Minneapolis in 1968.


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