October 10, 2014
By Marc Bussanich
New York, NY—On Thursday evening, October 2, 2014 EmblemHealth and LaborPress presented awards to 12 union member honorees for their incredible contributions to New York City. This was the third annual heroes of labor awards ceremony, and for the first time they presented a special tribute award to honor the legacy of a late union president.
Richard Sheehan was president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 802 for the past decade before passing away in the spring from lung cancer.
Neal Tepel, LaborPress’ publisher, said he was proud to recognize the achievements and contributions of 12 union members.
“This year’s Heroes of Labor Awards is the largest since we started this program three years ago. I am so proud that these awards have grown to present such a diverse cross section of New York’s labor community.” said Neal Tepel. “Our honorees exemplify what it truly means to be a labor union member. These remarkable individuals have truly gone above and beyond the call of duty in the service of their communities.”
In the accompanying video, you can watch the 12 honorees being honored by their respective union presidents. Shawn McLoughlin, director of labor for Emblem Health, also thanked the honorees for their hard work.
“Their stories are seldom told. They give their time to community service. They lead behind the scenes, they give voice to minorities and children, and they’re the individuals in our labor unions that make our neighborhoods and communities so wonderful,” said McLoughlin.
Then McLoughlin announced the special tribute award for Richard Sheehan. Sheehan’s wife of 38 years accepted the award on her husband’s behalf.
“This would mean so much to him. He was so proud to represent and work with members of Local 802. Thank you so much,” said Mrs. Sheehan.
Shirley Gray is executive assistant to the president of Social Service Employees Union Local 371, Anthony Wells. She said she was thrilled to be recognized for her work.
“This is a moment in time for me. I don’t get many moments like this. I’m so grateful that somehow I got the opportunity to serve so many, many people,” said Gray.
Ernest Logan, president of Council of School Supervisors & Administrators Local 1, presented awards to two CSA members, Catherine Morrissey and Erica Griffith.
“A lot of people are still suffering from the effects of [Superstorm] Sandy. These two young ladies, Cathy and Erica, are exemplary examples of people going above and beyond the call of duty. They volunteered to go shelters. They unloaded tractor-trailers loaded with supplies. For two weeks, they kept the food and clothing donations coming, and kept the school’s kitchen open at FDR High School in Bensonhurst,” said Logan.
Erich Preis is a RWDSU Local 338 member working at a Stop & Shop in Northport, Long Island. He was introduced by Jailene Ortiz to accept the award.
“I met Erich about a few months ago when he reached out to the union in a time of need. He’s an amazing person. He is absolutely everything that a hero of labor should embody. He’s the founder of the Spirit of Huntington Arts Center, a not-for-profit group of artists who’ve joined together to build a community that supports children with special needs and veterans through creative art,” said Ortiz.
Lester Crockett is president of Region 2 with CSEA Local 1000. He had the privilege to introduce honoree Abraham Benjamin.
“Benjamin is a very humble individual. He doesn’t look for any awards for the things that he do. And that’s one of the things that make him outstanding,” said Crockett.
Kuba Brown is president of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 94. His members make sure that the city’s skyscrapers run smoothly and efficiently. He introduced two honorees, Bobby Fantine and Howard Styles, who work as instructors in the local’s training center.
“They make my life so much easier when I go to the bargaining table. I hope they stay with me for 1,000 years to make my union even greater,” said Brown.
Manny Nieves is an instructor at the New York City District Council of Carpenters’ Labor Technical College. He said he was honored to get the award for the work he did during recovery operations after Superstorm Sandy.
“It’s a great privilege, but it wasn’t just me. There were 173 young apprentices out there to help people in their homes devastated by Sandy. They were so grateful that they opened up their homes to the apprentices,” said Nieves.
Luis Alzate started out as a bus driver in 1995 and is now ATU Local 1056’s Vice President. He wasn’t able to attend the event because his wife is ill, but the local’s president, Mark Henry, accepted the award on his behalf.
“Luis has been part of our leadership ranks in many capacities. I’d like to say thank you for all the work he has done. I ask everyone here to keep him and his wife in prayer,” said Henry.
Victoria Mitchell, executive director of AFSCME DC 1707, the union representing members in child care and social services, presented awards to two members, Mabel Everett of Local 205 and Carolyn Cox of Local 95.
She thanked them both for their years of service.
And Maria Sullivan, a member with IUOE Local 15, was recognized for her hard work, dedication and service.