Brooklyn (Workers World Today) — September 6 was the date of the annual celebration of the Power Labor 50, hosted by the City & State Multimedia News Organization and the New York City Central Labor Council. This event, where politicians and union members met for a night of networking, boasted the year’s top contenders in leadership across all participating New York City unions.
Hot off the press was the New York City and State magazine showcasing the fifty top names of leaders running unions. This year’s number one pick was President of the 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, George Gresham, who spearheads negotiations for the largest healthcare union in the United States. The list ended with Terrence Moore who serves as Business Manager and Financial Secretary-Treasurer of the Metallic Lathers and Reinforcing Ironworkers Local 46 Union. His union was among the first to accept a wage cut in order to work on Hudson Yards.
The magazine also compiled the names of up-and-coming labor organizers making their mark. “The Watch List” included Alexander Gleason, the current Director of Policy, Research and Legislation at the New York City Central Labor Council. Another entrant, Gabby Seay, who currently serves as Political Director for the 1199SEIU, has also been a key figure in ex-president Obama’s 2012 reelection effort in Ohio where she oversaw political decisions for the campaign.
Notable speakers from the event were Brooklyn native and first-time Latino President of the New York City Central Labor Council, Vincent Alvarez, as well as Janella T. Hinds, the Vice President for Academic High Schools at the United Federation of Teachers.
These figures were joined by the evening’s keynote speaker, New York City’s Comptroller Scott Stringer. In his brief speech, Stringer drew applause from the crowd with his remarks concerning a growing number of labor activists dispersed across districts all over the state of New York. Stringer goes on to share the fact that “People have a right to a fair wage and economic opportunity. I believe that to my core.” This was, of course, in reference to the hovering case, Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, challenging unions at the present moment in our country.
Roaring chants from union members could be heard with respect to their disallowance of the Janus v. AFSCME case.
The ruling ultimately voted to prevent public unions from charging agency fees to those who opted out on becoming union members. The collective bargaining that unions negotiate on behalf of all members still stands, even though some members will not be paying union dues.
The game-changer behind this groundbreaking case is a child support specialist employed with the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. Thanks to the Supreme Court ruling in his favor, he now gets to take home $50 more each month that would have normally gone toward union dues.
He stands by his statement made to the New York Daily News that for him, it was never about the money but “mainly a matter of choice.” This choice is extremely critical to Janus, who according to the Illinois Policy website, stated that his union, AFSCME, infringed upon the liberties presented to him by the First Amendment when they used his involuntary union fees to partake in politics and political speeches.
As for now, the case is proving to have a ripple effect among those who favor their unions and others who side with Janus.
Union members in New York, however, are willing to fight the fight to receive their union dues and that was on full display at their Power Labor 50 reception.
Dana Mathura is a senior at Baruch College majoring in Communication Studies and minoring in Journalism, class of Spring 2019. Dana has written for the online publication Odyssey and is currently a News and Feature Writer for Caribbean American Weekly, as well as Workers World Today. Her work has been published both in print and online. Fascinated with journalism from a young age, she is an aspiring Broadcast News Analyst, hoping one day to write her own memoir. Dana’s interests include fashion, photography and film.