May 4, 2017
By Silver Krieger
New York, NY – The Civil Service Merit Council held its annual awards dinner in Midtown Manhattan on Thursday, April 27th, where five awards were presented.
The ceremony began with Neal Tepel Publisher of LaborPress and President of the Council thanking sponsors, who included N.G. Slater Promotions, Empire Blue Cross, Emblem Health, Aetna, American Health Care, GVS (General Vision Services), CPS Optical, Best Doctors, National Debt Relief, Pitta & Giblin LLP, Neil Kalra, Attorney, Cary Kane, and Radius Bank. Tepel then introduced the master of ceremonies Bobby Lee, who called out to a number of unions who were represented in the crowd, including Locals 246, 375, 372, 371, 891, the Sanitation Officer’s Union, the Uniformed Fire Officer’s Association, the CSA, OSA, DC 37, and the Central Labor Council.
The first award of the evening went to Joseph A. Colangelo, President SEIU Local 246. Tepel presented the award, and said, “Joe is super active in every organization, at every meeting, and in the International. His day starts at 7 a.m., if there’s a breakfast – he’s there.” Colangelo said, “The Civil Service system has served the mostly immigrant community in this city for generations. It’s set up so when you take the exam that’s the qualifying event, and you get hired. It’s not who you know. This dates back one hundred years or so. This stops cronyism and patronage. Now, we are back in that era. It’s like we’re going back one hundred years. We should strengthen our resolve. I take this as a great honor. I thank Bob and Neal for what they do, and all the other honorees. The fight has just begun.”
Robert Croghan, Chairperson of the OSA, then introduced a sober note, telling the crowd that one of the honorees, Louis Albano, former President of AFSCME Local 375, had passed away the night before, and asked for a moment of silence. “We must go forth and fight for the things he cared about,” he said.
The next honoree, Joseph A. Mannion, President SEIU Local 444, NYC Sanitation Officers, was then introduced and given his award by Peter Meringolo, Chairman, NYSPEC. “Joe never stops fighting,” he said. Mannion said, “Thanks Bob and Neal, for this great honor. I want to recognize a great leader – Lou Albano.” He then said, “I couldn’t be with a better group of people. That’s how we got our jobs – the Civil Service test. That’s being eroded now.”
Next Donald Nesbit, Executive Vice President AFSCME Local 372, introduced Shaun D. Francois, I, President AFSCME Local 372, and presented him with his award. “More than my friend, my brother, we started out as ‘next wavers’ youth. As leaders we did things like taking on the fight for full time benefits for part-time workers, organized and got petitions for gender parity, for school crossing guards, and helped with issues of substance abuse. We fought for air-conditioners in school kitchens. We were part of universal feeding for kids in NYC,” said Nesbit. Francois said, “I thank Donald Nesbit without whom I probably wouldn’t be here, Neal, and others. We have to get down to business. We have to worry about tomorrow because it’s coming down. We have to come together more now than ever… When we come together we’re a majority…they are trying to dismantle the unions. We cannot have that. How do you get services if you don’t pay dues? It’s like paying no taxes – would you get services? I say no dues, no taxes!” He then led the crowd in a chant, asking, ‘Are we ready?’”
Bobby Lee then said, “I would like to see labor doing the job to educate the public in what they do, and why it’s so important.”
Next, Brad Smith, retiree, AFSCME Local 375, who was to present the award to Louis Albano, accepted the award in his stead. “It’s a sad day for leaders and members of 375,” he said, of Albano’s passing, adding that Albano had been active in the union for over 50 years. “He was always a very strong supporter of the Civil Service Merit System…We know about cronyism and patronage going on all through the country. We are all under a threat that requires constant vigilance. I remember when Civil Service workers were looked up to and had the support of politicians. Now we are under threat on a national level. An example is the Right to Work laws maybe going national. We need to get workers more involved and get more education among members and the general public.” He added, “It’s an honor to accept this award on behalf of Lou Albano, his family, and all those close to him.”
Joe Mannion then said, “On November 7th , when the vote to change the Constitution comes up, we have to educate our members, retirees, and neighbors that it could be D-Day for all of us. The vote has to be ‘No, no, no and no.”
Arthur Cheliotes, President CWA Local 1180, was the next honoree. Dennis Trainor, VP CWA District 1, introduced him and presented the award. “He has been the President of CWA Local 1180 for the last 38 years. Several years ago he worked on pay equity. He fought Bloomberg, and also [Mayor] De Blasio, and he just got a call from De Blasio on pay equity day saying, ‘Let’s settle this.’ Congratulations. Whenever there’s a fight, a call, he’s always there to speak.” Cheliotes thanked Trainor for help in dealing with the City of New York, saying, ‘Dennis Trainor got us to the table. What that’ll mean is that the city workers who have put in the time, followed the rules, took tests, moved up the ranks, will finally get paid what white men got. What a concept! While these men got $90,000, women and women of color were offered $53,000 for the same work. They came back to 1180 and said, ‘We need a union, we can’t fight this by ourselves.’ There were no legit reasons why these women were paid so low. We won, but now await justice approval. The merit system is not there just for these workers. It’s in the public interest. They are there because they qualified, based on WHAT they know, not WHO they know. If we ever let them take that away we will be in for a spoil system where if you and I are not related to Donald Trump you can’t get a job working for government. The merit system democratizes government jobs. When you begin to leave that, it’s another step towards autocracy. Patronage doles out jobs based on how they feel about us. The struggle to have a democracy has to go on. We need to make sure we are vigilant, and make sure our government works for everybody.”
Cheliotes was then presented with a special award from American Health Care, for his health care initiatives, and his efforts to gain improved health care services for his union members and for all Americans. The award was presented by City Councilmember Eugene Mathieu, and Phil Faicco of American Health Care, as well as Lance Aizen, CEO of American Health Care.