New York, NY – On Thursday, October 3, LaborPress and Emblem Health, one of the nation’s largest nonprofit health insurers, honored five people at the 8th Annual Heroes of Labor Awards in downtown Manhattan. The honorees were Kim Medina, special assistant to the District Council 37 Executive Director, Gloria Middleton, president, CWA Local 1180 and Arthur Cheliotes, president emeritus, CWA Local 1180, Michael Lollo, New York City detective and DEA [Detectives’ Endowment Association] member and Lenny Legotte, IUEC Local 1 business manager and president.
The evening began with LaborPress Publisher Neal Tepel welcoming the standing-room only crowd. He reminded those present that LaborPress is the largest labor news network in the country, with a presence on the internet, radio, newspapers, and video, including a special labor section in the New York Daily News. The event was being filmed for broadcast on national television. He thanked EmblemHealth President and CEO Karen Ignagni and the planning committee, as well as LaborPress’ Stephanie West and attorney Vincent Pitta.
Ignagni took the stage, and profusely thanked the union locals who had helped in the preparation and building of the event space. She gave nods to political officials who were present, and read a message from Governor Andrew Cuomo, saying he sent greetings, and that “I join you in congratulating [these labor champions].” She also introduced special guest Mark Messier, former New York Ranger, who spoke eloquently, saying, “It’s one thing to talk about being courageous, it’s another thing to be courageous. These folks here tonight have made a difference.” He mentioned that he himself was a “26-year union vet myself.” Messier has worked with many causes over the years, including kids with terminal cancer and 9/11 responders.
Henry Garrido, Executive Director, District Council 37 AFSCME, presented the first award of the night to Medina. She successfully led the equal pay battle for educators working in early childhood centers. He spoke about the recent unification of DC 37 and 1707 and the recent successes of pay parity. He called Medina a “shero” and said she was “one of the great leaders in our labor movement.” Medina modestly accepted the award, an etched glass sculpture, as well as a certificate from Senator Diane Savino, saying, “I’m just the voice of many – today this award belongs to my staff and my members.”
Next, Paul DiGiacomo, Vice President, Detectives’ Endowment Association, introduced Lollo, after a short video in which the story of Lollo’s donating his kidney to a stranger was told. Lollo said of his union, “they protect those who protect the city,” and spoke of his job where he protects visiting dignitaries. He said of his brave donation, “I never thought to receive any recognition for it…it’s humbling.” He also called attention to fallen officer Brian Mulkeen and asked all to keep him in their prayers.
Cheliotes and Middleton were next honored, introduced by Gerald Brown, Second Vice President, CWA 1180. Working together, they won a landmark victory against New York City regarding discriminatory pay policies. Cheliotes said that they had noticed a “huge pay disparity” between women, particulary women of color, and white men in the same jobs. An arbitration settlement was reached in April, but it took decades. He said, “I call Gloria our closer,” and also called her a “shero.” Middleton thanked EmblemHealth and LaborPress, and said of Cheliotes, “his knowledge you can’t buy – he’s been doing a labor of love all these years.” She said she was grateful for the support of her family, both her immediate as well as her “1180 family.” “I have been given a gift,” she said, “to be able to work for labor.” Cheliotes then stressed, “Without a union you can’t achieve these things.”
Michael Halpin, National Coordinator, Elevator Industry Work Preservation Fund, introduced Legotte, who was instrumental in the passage of critical legislation requiring licensing and training for elevator repair workers. Said Halpin, “Lenny took the lead on this bill.” A video played, wherein Legotte said, “Most people don’t realize what it takes [for an elevator to run] – it’s likely the most technical piece of equipment in the building. There were no requirements [to work on them] – now all will have to have a license.” Legotte said, “It was like an act of God to try and get this done – very difficult. One of our biggest victories after eight years.” He also thanked Halpin, saying, “It doesn’t happen without him, and the members.