EmblemHelath and LaborPress held their annual Heroes of Labor on October 11 to honor four exceptional union leaders at Lower Manhattan’s 55 Water Street.

The theme of the 11th year of the award ceremony was focused on labor figures who represent the future of labor. This year’s honorees included Tanya Hatcher, vice president of publicity for  District Council 37 AFSCME Local 371; James Shillitto, president UWUA Local 1-2; John Jovic, business manager and financial secretary of Heat and Frost Insulators Local 12; and Dean Devita, president National Conference of Firemen & Oilers and vice president of SEIU 32BJ.

Hundreds of spectators attended to support the honorees of the Heroes of Labor program, which began after Hurricane Sandy to pay homage to the labor community that kept the city going during the disaster.

“Labor unions drive this city, keep the city moving, keep the city organized, keep the city safe, and we can’t take enough days or evenings to honor the contribution of the men and women who are labor union members,” said Karen Ignagni, CEO of EmblemHealth.

EmblemHealth not only manages the plan that currently covers most New York City employees and their dependents, but it also manages a physicians organization, AdvantageCare Physicians, which is itself unionized — a unique arrangement for a non-hospital physicians’ group.

The honorees were chosen for their forward-thinking vision. In her role as vice president for publicity and community relations, Hatcher guides the union’s communications with the membership, which includes social media as well as the award-winning publication The Unionist.

“We are a mighty, mighty union. And I say that with pride. I say that with a lot of passion and compassion. So each and every day we pride ourselves in making sure that we get the information out to our membership. It’s not an easy job,” said Hatcher.

Shillito was honored for his work on green energy. He has joined a number of labor-focused environmental groups and spearheaded renewable energy initiatives as a way to address the mounting problems of climate change, while ensuring equity for his members.

“We are utility workers and it’s often overlooked, but they work hard every day. And my staff works hard to make sure that they get a fair shake for their hard work. So I accept this on their behalf because without them I’m nothing,” he said.

Jovic was also chosen for his work toward a more energy efficient future. He works with the local’s contractors to continue to educate builders and developers and the government on the long term financial benefits of installing efficient insulation, while boosting the benefits of unions work.

“If we all stick together and focus on the common goal of expanding our skilled workforce while providing a pathway to the middle class, we will overcome these challenges and build a better tomorrow for our members. As I take this award, I do so with sincere appreciation of my heroes, all those who make it possible,” he said.

Devita was chosen based on his forward-looking approach to high-speed rail. Devita has served on the U.S. High-Speed Rail Coalition Executive Committee and has been working on a proposal to build a new 230-mile, high-speed rail link between New York City and Boston.

“It’s time our nation makes financial commitment,” he said in his speech. “Thank you for your interest in the future of America’s transportation. And thank you most of all for supporting the American worker.”


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