Editor’s Note: CWA Local 1180 President Gloria Middleton and CWA Local 1180 President Emeritus Arthur Cheliotes will be honored along with IUEC Local 1 Business Manager and President Lenny Legotte; NYPD Det. Michael Lollo and DC1707 Executive Director Kim Medina at LaborPress’ 8th Annual Heroes of Labor Awards on Thursday, October 3.
New York, NY – CWA Local 1180 Business Manager and former President, Arthur Cheliotes, and current President Gloria Middleton were both instrumental in leading their union to victory in a landmark victory earlier this year against discriminatory pay policy.
The fight to give fair pay to women and minorities began decades ago, and in April of 2019, a settlement was finally reached that will give millions of dollars in back pay, annuity payments, and additional retroactive pay for the close to1,600 Administrative Managers — the union members who were unfairly discriminated against versus their white, male counterparts.
Cheliotes has been in the struggle for their recognition since the beginning. He joined the CWA Local 1180 staff in 1975, and retired as president at the end of 2018. Says Cheliotes, “Until they were organized into the union, they didn’t have the ability to challenge the city. In 2009, we finally recognized them as part of our union. But it was in the ‘70’s that we started. The Board of Collective Bargaining had ruled they were not eligible. Much of the patterns of discrimination began with the Koch administration; the way the career paths/titles were set up. In 2013 came the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) filing that shocked the city. They were so arrogant that they thought they could do no wrong.”
“The problem was the bias was so heavy. The women saw younger men with less experience offered the higher level jobs,” Cheliotes adds.
After the April settlement, this past July, more than the required 90% – 93% of Administrative Managers signed off that they will accept the settlement. A Fairness Hearing follows, during which a federal magistrate will review the settlement acceptance by the members and listen to any objections.
The biggest reward, says Cheliotes, is “the smiles on the members’ faces. You don’t do this work in this union unless you don’t believe in people getting swindled by their bosses. When people told us we were crazy we showed them we weren’t. They said it was ‘pie in the sky’ and we showed them that it wasn’t. If you don’t challenge it, how will it ever change?”
He adds, “The most important thing we tried to tell workers – you can’t get this without a union. When you have a union you have someone to advocate for you.”
Middleton, who joined the local in 1995, became secretary-treasurer in 2001, and succeeded Cheliotes as president in January of 2018, noted the vast pay differences in salary that were involved. “We noticed the range of $53,000 to $150,000, and guess who was making what? We strategized how we could fix this,” Middleton says.
That led to the filing of the EEOC case. Numerous court battles later – the union even had to go to court to get the statistics of the members’ pay differences and ethnicities, which the city claimed violated privacy rights – the settlement is in place.
“We had to compensate the low-end paid members for all the years, and going forward, we had to make sure this wouldn’t happen again,” Middleton says. “Our journey for justice just took a big step forward, and our Administrative Managers, who have stood with the Union during this long fight, will finally get the recognition and restitution they deserve. Our members have served for decades, delivering important public services without the recognition or compensation they were and are entitled to.
Middleton adds, “The fact that someone is female, or black, or Hispanic should make no difference in what they get paid. This case was about equal pay for equal work. We are proud to have represented our members in helping to achieve this important victory in the battle for pay equality — people said it couldn’t get done, and yes, it did get done.”