New York, NY — LaborPress held its annual Leadership Awards on Tuesday, November 28th, in downtown Manhattan, honoring five
for their outstanding contributions to the labor movement. The honorees were Tom DiNapoli, New York State Comptroller, Richard Lanigan, President, Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU), Dan Kane, Sr., International Vice President, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Arthur Cheliotes, President of CWA Local 1180, and Ed Weber, President, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 812.
Neal Tepel, President and Founder of LaborPress, welcomed the crowd, thanking them for their support, and updating them on the mission and status of LaborPress: “LaborPress is New York’s leading source for daily labor news and information,” he said, “Every day we present the story of workers and the critical importance of labor organizations.” LaborPress’s reach is online, in radio, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, among other media, and Tepel spoke about how support is helping build a young audience, embracing a demographic which is living with “a dearth of independent worker news,” so different from years past. “We are very grateful to the unions and businesses,” which are helping in the outreach, he added.
Vincent Pitta, of Pitta LLP, the first presenter, informed the crowd of the sad news that one of the night’s honorees, Richard Lanigan,
would not be present, due to the tragic death of his brother-in-law over the weekend in a motorcycle accident. Lanigan’s award would be accepted in his stead by Steve Turkeltaub, President of Local 153, OPEIU. Pitta asked for a moment of silence, which was observed. Pitta then introduced Tom DiNapoli, as the night’s first award recipient, lauding his rise from the age of 18 as a School Board trustee, to his position today, where he is “a steward of more than $2 billion in pension monies.” “Our state and treasury is in good hands with Tom,” he added. DiNapoli accepted his award, saying he was “proud to be a friend of labor,” and insisting that the night’s other honorees, “are on the front line.” He also thanked LaborPress “for many years of great service to all of us…and for the difference it makes.” He said that his family was able to achieve the American Dream because of the labor movement – both his parents were union members, which provided “good benefits, and decent pay.” He said this background “informs his work on behalf of unions in his job.” “Working women and men can only survive and thrive if the labor movement is there to help them,” he said.
Turkeltaub accepted Lanigan’s award on his behalf, citing his over 20 years in the movement, “starting as an organizer, rising through the ranks to Secretary-Treasurer, International VP, and in 2015, President.” Lanigan’s accomplishments include negotiating contracts, facilitating mergers, conducting hearings and filing Unfair Labor Practice charges, and assisting with affiliations, strikes, contract campaigns and grievances. He successfully negotiated on behalf of several OPEIU local unions under a master agreement in the maritime industry. He secured a landmark decision for the Hawaii Nurses Association in 2010, allowing more than 4,000 nurses to join the union. He has received numerous awards from groups ranging from the NAACP to the Boy Scouts of America.
Next, Dan Kane, Jr., presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to his father, Dan Kane, Sr. He said his father’s life is “labor, 24/7,”
and singled out for particular appreciation his father’s vision that saw that “workers, alone, could not change their circumstances,” but that a “worldwide” effort was needed. Kane, Jr. also said his father always uses the term “working class” as opposed to “middle class,” because he sees only two groups: “those who work and those who make money off those people who work.” Kane, Sr., began his acceptance speech by lauding the other honorees individually for their outstanding contributions. He also made a point of lamenting the fact that, in the U.S., “you can’t tell a worker he can freely join a union,” since workers are often retaliated against by firing if they vote to join, and therefore, “we don’t have a democracy.” He ended with a stirring poem, a line of which was, “There’s nothing as pure as work.”
Neal Tepel then introduced cardiologist Dr. Perry Frankel, as someone who, through his work, had saved lives in unions, and who was in the audience. Dr. Frankel then offered some statistics about strokes and heart attacks, and spoke about some specific instances where detection of unsuspected conditions had prevented fatalities.
Vincent Alvarez, President of the NYC Central Labor Council, then introduced Arthur Cheliotes, who is soon retiring after decades at the helm of CWA Local 1180. Alvarez cited three particular traits that he said showed how valuable Cheliotes has been to the labor movement: one, his “skill and intellect,” two, his “dedication and passion,” and three, his “solidarity with all workers, throughout the country and internationally.” Cheliotes said, “What I have spent my life doing is working with people like you in this audience, doing what I learned from my parents and in Sunday school – do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” He said his father had also told him, “Have courage, be willing to stand up for what you believe in…I have had the wonderful opportunity in my job to do those things.”
Joe Vitta, Secretary-Treasurer, Local 812, IBT, then introduced the next honoree, Ed Weber, saying he had “shown a deep
understanding of our industry.” He described Weber’s leadership in the recent strike against Clare Rose, a beverage distributor, which stretched over months, until the union finally won an acceptable contract, saying Weber’s guidance, and the support of other unions throughout the country, as well as boycotts by the public and local businesses, bolstered workers’ morale. “Ed’s leadership provided balance” when dealing with politicians and agencies, he said, and, “Ed made sure the truthful message was sent to all…through his leadership, we won that strike.” Weber then took the podium, saying that during the “long and nasty strike,” “they were looking to break the union,” especially since the company was trying to eliminate the workers’ pension plan. He praised other participants, saying, “For 84 days my executive board was out there seven days a week with the strikers…nobody crossed the picket line…everybody stuck together.” He added, “We must continue to fight corporate greed…this award is for Local 812, and all unions across the country and labor leaders that do this job every day.”