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Cliff Suggs

Born on 12-25-1939. He was born in Buffalo, New York. He is accomplished in the area of Labor.
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Cliff Suggs currently is President and CEO of Suggs & Associates a privately held, minority enterprise at the forefront of assisting organizations that want to realize the benefits of a culturally competent workforce in the public and private sectors. Cliff has over 30 years of experience in Labor and Behavioral Education.

Mr. Suggs was born on December 25, 1939 at Buffalo General Hospital in Buffalo, New York and grew up in a single parent home with his older sister, and younger brother. His mother often worked two jobs simultaneously to make ends meet. So Cliff and his siblings were responsible for doing most of the household chores at an early age. In addition, to earn extra money during his pre and early teen years, Cliff worked many odd jobs, such as shining shoes, delivering groceries, cutting grass and in the winter shoveling snow. While attending East High School, Cliff had a full-time evening job shining shoes at the Buffalo Airport. He also worked as a part-time manager for a small restaurant, the Broadway Soda Bar. Whatever money he earned he would give half to his mother to help with the household needs and the rest he would share with his sister and brother. He cites these early experiences as the foundation for his adult work ethic.

Suggs is a US Marine Corps, Viet Nam era veteran. He joined the Marine Corps to take advantage of the G.I. Bill, which would provide him an opportunity to attend law school. He was an academic honor roll student, throughout his elementary education. Unfortunately, the government suspended the G.I. Bill, while Cliff was in service and it was not reinstated until 1966. Therefore, after his honorable discharge, Cliff elected to stay in California, which was a tuition free State. He worked at the US Post Office, while he matriculated at City College of San Francisco. San Francisco in the early 60s was a hotbed of political activism and Cliff, like many returning young veterans, was soon heavily engaged in the struggles for human rights and dignity.

His mother's hospitalization brought him back to Buffalo, where he enrolled in Empire State College majoring in Political Science with a minor in Sociology. Although the political climate in Buffalo was not as vibrant as San Francisco, Cliff still found outlets for his activism. An acknowledged Veteran against the War, he worked with several groups involved with ending the Vietnam War. He worked with a Quaker organization to assist young man who wanted to avoid the draft. He also worked with Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) to end discriminatory practices in housing rentals and sales.

During the Nigerian /Biafra Civil War, Cliff became a national spokesperson, fund raiser, and lobbyist for the Biafra clause. He publicly challenged the Nixon administration's complicity in the genocide that was occurring in Nigeria. He publicly disproved Michigan Congressman Charles Diggs' congressional report that there were no organized atrocities perpetrated by the Nigerian government. It was during this period that Cliff was placed on the then-President Nixon's "Subversive Americans List". This list was headed by such notables as A. Philip Randolph, Walter P. Reuther, Jesse Jackson, Joan Baez and many other celebrities who were voicing dissent at governmental policies. Cliff recalls thinking "I must be doing something right to be included on a list in this kind of company." Congressional pressure forced the expunging of this list in 1974.
His Labor Relations career began as a member and then an elected Committeeman of UAW Local 897, (Buffalo Ford Stamping Plant) where he worked for 11 years, 1964 through 1973. He quickly became one of the most recognized and in many cases, polarizing individuals in a workforce of 6900 employees as he carried his activism and trademark Afro with him into the workplace.

Suggs became the voice of change in union policies and plant administration. During that span he was the catalyst for the integration of the Skilled Trades departments which until that time, had a workforce of approximately 1500 employees, and only two Blacks. He challenged the Ford Motor Company's exclusive use of the New York State Veterans Preference Act in hiring and threatened a federal lawsuit to force the company to hire females into the hourly work force. The New York State Veterans Preference Act was ultimately found to be unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court.
Cliff also initiated the founding of the Woodlawn Auto Workers Federal Credit Union, an organization which today holds assets of several millions of dollars. Cliff was a leading member of a group that brought about the UAW's Fair Employment Practices Committees (now known as the Civil Rights Committee) as a Constitutional Committee. He also championed the UAW's push to make Dr. King's birthday a Contractual and National Holiday. Then in 1973 he was the recipient of a UAW Education Fellowship and went on to serve as an International Representative with AFSCME and the NEA where his activism continued to bring about organizational change.

In 1977, Cliff was appointed a Commissioner with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service where he worked for 21 years. He was responsible for mediation of contract negotiations in both the private and public sectors, providing technical assistance to labor and management and also charged with the development of training programs and public information activities. During his tenure he earned national recognition as one of the best mediators in the Nation and was often called upon to mediate some of the Country's most important and visible labor disputes. During the Clinton Administration, Cliff was appointed as a Director of Mediation Services, which made him one of the highest ranking government officials in the United States. He also served as the Co-Chair of the Minority Mediator's Caucus which spearheaded the hiring and promotion of Minority candidates into the Federal Service.

Mr. Suggs also holds the distinction of having been selected for a special U.S. State Department assignment to teach conflict resolution in South Africa. He was the first Black American approved by the post-apartheid, transitional government for such an assignment. There he toured and lectured in the leading universities and at special forums arranged jointly by the US embassies and the South African government in Lesotho, Swaziland, and throughout the Republic of South Africa. While in South Africa, Suggs was instrumental in settling a long running nurse's strike at a major medical facility.

Cliff Suggs was one of a handful of Mediators entrusted to mediate Age Discrimination Complaints under the 1975 Age Discrimination Act. He also helped design and implement alternative dispute resolution systems for several governmental agencies. These include the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Health and Human Services (HHS), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the US Postal Service.
Cliff joined the Cornell University faculty in January 1999. Until his retirement in June of 2006, Mr. Suggs was employed as a Senior Extension Associate with Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Serving as a Workplace & Industry Education Specialist, his areas of expertise were personal and organizational change, collective bargaining, leadership skills and dispute resolution. He helped design, deliver and directed the Award-winning UAW/Ford Automotive Industries Studies Program. Additionally, Cliff authored and taught in many labor and management programs and forums. He was very often sought out for media interviews and to serve as a professional industrial consultant.

During the Erie County's fiscal crisis, which curtailed county services, several parties requested Mr. Suggs to use his mediation expertise to bring about settlement between the County Legislative Branch and The Executive Branch. Cliff was successful in restoring and maintaining the full services of the Erie County Sheriff's Department and the reopening and restoring of services of the Erie County Auto Bureau and many parks. While not fully successful in resolving the contentious dispute, he did manage partial settlement in other areas of county services.

Mr. Suggs' distinguished career has been highlighted with numerous professional awards and recognitions including a United States Presidential Citation for outstanding community involvement. Cliff has been active in community involvement and civil rights programs for over 40 years, with much of his involvement in Western New York.

He is a charter member of Operation P.U.S.H. and an active gold-life member of the NAACP. He has served on the executive board of the Buffalo Urban League and was a founding executive board member of the New York State Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission. In all he has an ongoing or past service relationship with over 20 community based organizations in addition to his professional affiliations.

Suggs also finds time to be politically active. He has served as a Democratic Committeeman in the Town of Amherst. He was an unsuccessful candidate in the very first school board election in Buffalo. He has actively supported and worked for the election of many political candidates in the City of Buffalo, the County of Erie, and the State of New York over the ensuing years.

Among the events that Cliff believes authored his activism was a visit to Georgia when he was about five years old. "I can still vividly recall riding in the segregated train, being thirsty, and not allowed to drink from the White water fountain, and having to step off of the sidewalk into the mud to allow a white family to pass." The next life altering experience was the lynching of Emmett Till, A 14 year old Chicago teenager visiting in Mississippi. "We were about the same age," Cliff recalls. These were the two major events that fueled his desire for racial justice at an early age. Then his experiences in Southeast Asia, the quest for social justice and civil rights in the early and middle 60s, and finally, the events of Freedom Summer and the struggle for Civil Rights provided the impetus for a life of activism.

When asked what he considered his major accomplishments, Suggs replied "Major is in the eye of the beholder, the definition "major" depends upon individual circumstances. If for example you were the female head of a household, a job at Ford was "major". If your child needed assistance with a college loan, the establishment of the Credit Union was "major". If you had no marketable skills and were able to complete the apprenticeship and become an electrician, then the integration of the Skilled Trades Department at Ford was "major". If you were the owner of a company or an employee of that company, who had your contract resolved without a strike, then your family's economic well being was "major". Certainly, if you were a starving child in Biafra, then a plate of food was "major". I truly believe that each of us has "major" impact on others, whether we do it intentionally or not."

Mr. Suggs is the author of many published articles and training manuals. He is currently completing work on a children's book. He is the proud parent of Buffalo police officer Sheila Suggs and Buffalo firefighter Marc Suggs. He is the grandfather of Skylar Suggs-Barrons and Xavier Suggs.

Mr. Suggs retired in June of 2006 and relocated to Florida in 2008.