The 2021 New York State Labor Power 100: 51-100

The union chiefs and worker rights advocates fighting for a stronger New York.

Assembly Labor Chair Latoya Joyner spoke at a May 6 rally in Manhattan highlighted a bill she is sponsoring to crack down on wage theft.

Assembly Labor Chair Latoya Joyner spoke at a May 6 rally in Manhattan highlighted a bill she is sponsoring to crack down on wage theft. Lauren Boudreau

51. Maritza Silva-Farrell

Executive Director, ALIGN

Maritza Silva-Farrell

As it became clear that many workplaces – essential and less so – would remain open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, ALIGN became a key player in a coalition of 70 unions, workers’ centers and nonprofits that have pushed the NY HERO Act. The bill sets enforceable workplace standards for testing, PPE, social distancing, hygiene and more. Maritza Silva-Farrell has led ALIGN, an alliance of labor and community organizations, since 2016.

52. Charlene Obernauer

Executive Director, New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health

NYCOSH, the watchdog nonprofit that Charlene Obernauer leads, is well known for its annual report on construction deaths in New York state. The latest report on calendar year 2019 found that while construction-related deaths dipped slightly across the state, they rose 10% over the previous year within the five boroughs. In her role, Obernauer has advocated for better COVID-19 protection at New York work sites and also conducts training on a 2019 workplace harassment prevention state law.

53. Rebecca Dixon

Executive Director, National Employment Law Project

Rebecca Dixon

As head of the National Employment Law Project, Rebecca Dixon has tackled COVID-19-related labor challenges ranging from workplace safety to the shoddiness of state unemployment systems. Since 2020, she has pushed a federal meatpacking reform bill that would slow line speeds and allow workers to spread out. Beyond the pandemic, Dixon told The Washington Post that the U.S. labor market remains “intensely segregated,” reflecting the racial justice emphasis that animated much of NELP’s recent restructuring.

54. Samantha Rosado-Ciriello

President, Yonkers Federation of Teachers

In December, the union for 3,600 teachers and staff at schools in Yonkers, the state’s fourth-largest school district, pushed back against a district plan that would have teachers return to classrooms after only a week’s “pause” following the holidays. Leading the Yonkers Federation of Teachers is Samantha Rosado-Ciriello, who in March also advocated for a full-scale casino license for MGM Resorts’ Empire City Casino in Yonkers, a move that could mean millions in additional funding for the city’s schools.

55. Adam Urbanski 

President, Rochester Teachers Association

Adam Urbanski
American Federation of Teachers

As enrollment shrinks at Rochester’s schools, the district has allowed its staffing levels to stay the same – for now. Adam Urbanski, the president of the Rochester Teachers Association, spins that as a positive. “The fact that we have smaller class sizes, it is not a bad thing. It's a good thing,” he told WHEC News 10. This year, Urbanski pushed for 6-foot distancing between students as schools returned to in-person instruction in the state’s third largest city.

56. Matthew Aracich

President, Building and Construction Trades Council of Nassau & Suffolk Counties

At a public hearing in November, Matthew Aracich said that the developer of a planned Amazon warehouse in Westhampton Beach was planning to use union labor in its construction, calling it a “welcome respite” from similar projects that get tax breaks through the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency. As president of the trades council, Aracich leads an umbrella group of 37 union locals with 60,000 members.

57. Richard Lanigan

President, Office and Professional Employees International Union

As the U.S. industrial sector continues to shrink, labor has looked to the tech sector as a new organizing frontier. In 2020, Kickstarter employees voted to unionize with the OPEIU, and as of November the longstanding white-collar union was negotiating a collective bargaining agreement with the crowdfunding platform. The national union, which has a local on Long Island, is headed by Richard Lanigan, who got his start in 1980 as an organizer with Local 153 in New York.

58. James Shillitto

President, Utility Workers Union of America Local 1-2

James Shillito
John Capara

Water workers with Utility Workers Union of America Local 1-2 in New Rochelle threatened a strike against utility company Suez, but in March made a contract deal “thanks to the intervention of the federal mediator,” according to its president, James Shillitto. In 2020 the union, which represents electric, water and tree company workers, signed a contract for 8,000 members at Con Edison that includes raises. Shillitto opposed the closure of Indian Point Energy Center, a former nuclear plant which employed Local 1-2 members, but conceded that he couldn’t prevent it.

59. Jose Lopez, Arlenis Morel & Theo Oshiro

Co-Executive Directors, Make the Road New York

Left to right: Jose Lopez, Arlenis Morel, and Theo Oshire
Make the Road New York

With the nation under new management, Jose Lopez, Arlenis Morel and Theo Oshiro also represent new leadership at their immigrant-rights organization. In 2020, the group, which has close ties to large labor unions, led a successful push for a state law that bars U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other law enforcement agencies from making civil arrests near or inside state courthouses, unless a judge has signed off. Make the Road continues to fight its clients’ ICE detentions as control of federal law enforcement has passed to the Biden Administration.

60. Peter Coradi

National Business Agent, American Postal Workers Union

Peter Coradi

For 25 years, Peter Coradi has been a national business agent for the American Postal Workers Union, representing postal workers statewide. Last year was especially challenging – 35 postal workers in New York died of COVID-19, and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy instituted a series of policies that resulted in slower mail delivery. Coradi helped provide statements to the state attorney general’s office as it led a successful multistate lawsuit against DeJoy after he ordered the removal of 671 sorting machines nationwide.

61. Del Vitale

Director, United Steelworkers District 4

As the director of the United Steelworkers district that covers the Northeast, Del Vitale has recently advocated for producers of offshore windmills to use an all-American supply chain – including, of course, steel from union manufacturers. Since he started out as a slitter operator as a teenager in New Jersey, Vitale has risen to become the assistant to the director of District 4 starting in 2015, and moved up to director in July 2019. 

62. John Hutchings

Director, New York State Laborers’ Organizing Fund, LIUNA

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As director of the New York State Laborers’ Organizing Fund, John Hutchings represents over 40,000 members in 24 local unions and five district councils. In September, Hutchings celebrated the national labor agreement Holtec International signed with the Laborers’ International Union of North America. As Holtec decommissions Entergy’s Indian Point Energy Center, the company has committed to using union labor throughout the 12-15 year process.

63. Joe Pecora Jr. 

Vice President, Home Healthcare Workers of America

As vice president of the Home Healthcare Workers of America, Joe Pecora Jr. successfully lobbied the Cuomo administration last year to make the 26,000 New York aides he represents part of the first group eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Home health aides, who typically make near minimum wage, have been essential workers throughout the pandemic, regularly making close contact with infirm and elderly patients. “They’re on the front lines,” Pecora told MarketWatch late last year.

64. Thomas Mungeer

President, New York State Troopers Police Benevolent Association

As the state was gearing up to legalize recreational marijuana, New York State Troopers PBA President Thomas Mungeer said his rank and file were training on roadside tests to identify weed-influenced drivers – though there’s currently no Breathalyzer equivalent for cannabis. In April, Mungeer, who represents over 5,000 current and retired troopers, welcomed the new requirement for state troopers to record interactions with body cameras.

65. Murad Awawdeh 

Executive Director, New York Immigration Coalition

Murad Awawdeh

Soon after COVID-19 struck, the New York Immigration Coalition teamed up with 57 other groups advocating for relief for undocumented immigrants, who are excluded from federal stimulus payments and state unemployment insurance. A year later, the state budget included a $2.1 billion fund for so-called excluded workers – a huge victory for the organization, now headed by Murad Awawdeh. At the federal level, with President Joe Biden inheriting the immigrant detention machine, the coalition began seeking legislative immigration reform.

66. Sherry Leiwant & Dina Bakst

Co-Presidents, A Better Balance

Sherry Leiwant
A Better Balance
Dina Bakst
A Better Balance

Backing national and statewide efforts to expand workers’ rights to paid leave, A Better Balance was instrumental in the passage of the state Legislature's emergency paid leave act near the onset of the coronavirus pandemic last year. Sherry Leiwant and Dina Bakst, the co-founders of the legal advocacy organization, have also pushed for nationwide paid sick leave, accommodations for pregnant and breastfeeding workers and better access to child care for workers.

67. David Gonzalez

District 2 National Vice President, American Federation of Government Employees

While many federal workers live and work in Washington, D.C., plenty of federal employees work elsewhere – including in New York, where tens of thousands of them reside. The American Federation of Government Employees represents unionized federal workers, and in New York the local leader is David Gonzalez. Gonzalez, a Navy veteran and longtime labor leader who was elected national vice president last fall, also represents federal workers in a number of nearby northeast states, including New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts. 

68. Ryan Law

President, PBA of New York State

Ryan Law

Ryan Law represents four state police forces as president of the Police Benevolent Association of New York State: the State University of New York Police, the Forest Rangers, the Park Police and the Environmental Conservation Police. This year, Law has been fighting for retroactive raises for his 1,200 members, who have been working without a contract since 2015. The state Legislature has allocated back pay in recent years, but Law is still calling on state lawmakers to make his members’ salaries more competitive with municipal police officers’ pay.

69. Nadia Marin-Molina

Co-Executive Director, National Day Laborer Organizing Network

In the past year, Nadia Marin-Molina has wielded her influence both federally – as a member of President Joe Biden’s Department of Labor transition team – and in Albany, where she advocated for unemployment insurance to be extended to undocumented workers during the coronavirus pandemic. In March, her National Day Laborer Organizing Network held a hunger strike in White Plains in an ultimately successful push for the state to create a COVID-19 aid fund for “excluded workers” who don’t get stimulus or unemployment checks.

70. Alan Klinger

Co-Managing Partner, Stroock

Alan Klinger
Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP

As co-managing partner of Stroock, Alan Klinger plies his legal services for the United Federation of Teachers and the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association and also chairs the law firm’s government affairs and regulatory practice. In November, he represented two judicial associations in a suit against the Unified Court System after 46 older judges were denied recertification in an unusual move as the judiciary faced $300 million in budget cuts.

71. Ed Draves

Partner, Bolton-St. Johns

Ed Draves

In 2000, Ed Draves was the political and legislative director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, when then-first lady Hillary Clinton hired him to run the upstate operation of her campaign for U.S. Senate. Fresh off that victory, Draves joined the leading lobbying firm Bolton-St. Johns, where he continues to work on labor matters, while also specializing in health care, energy and casinos. 

72. Robert Bishop

Founding Member, Pitta Bishop & Del Giorno

Robert J. Bishop
Dominick Totino

Robert Bishop manages the Albany office of Pitta Bishop & Del Giorno, perennially one of the state’s biggest lobbying firms in terms of income. As a leader of a firm run by members from both parties, Bishop and his team represent many labor unions and trade groups – 36 are listed on the firm’s website – before governmental bodies throughout the state capital and in New York City. 

73. Alexander Colvin

Dean, Cornell University’s ILR School

Alexander Colvin
Jesse Winter Photography

While only 10.8% of wage and salary workers were unionized last year, several hundred Google employees recently joined the Alphabet Workers Union – which could mark a turning point. Alexander Colvin argued in March that labor relations at big tech companies are crucial. “How are we going to shape labor relations in these key industries going forward? It’s a big question for our society,” he said during an online lecture hosted by Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, which he leads.

74. Barbara Zaron

President, New York State Organization of Management/Confidential Employees

Barbara Zaron
Barbara Zaron

Barbara Zaron serves as president of the Organization of Management/Confidential Employees, which represents thousands of employees who are classified as management or confidential within every New York state department and agency. The body, affiliated with the Office and Professional Employees International Union but prohibited by law from collective bargaining, organizes its members to advocate for themselves. In March, for instance, they called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislators to grant them previously promised 2% raises.

75. Jomo Akono 

Council Representative, Carpenters Local 276

Jomo Akono
Jomo Akono

Appointed to the executive board of the North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters in November, Jomo Akono is known for his outreach work for Local 276 in Western New York. He has led efforts to diversify his Buffalo-based union via programs such as the Sisters in the Brotherhood pre-apprenticeship, intended to bring more women into the carpentry trade. Akono also hosts a weekly radio show on Buffalo radio called “ProJect Access to A-Free-Ka.”

76. Ron Gurrieri

President, CSEA Local 830

Ron Gurrieri
Bruce Raden

As a contract deal was pending with Nassau County, Ron Gurrieri last year replaced longtime Civil Service Employees Association Local 830 President Jerry Laricchiuta, who held the position for 15 years. Leading the second-biggest CSEA local in the state, Gurrieri fought to keep Nassau University Medical Center open with 3,000 members working there. A former police medic, Gurrieri faces an election for a full term in June.

77. Lynne Fox

Board Chair and Interim CEO, Amalgamated Bank

Founded in 1923 as a financial institution that would be accessible to working families, Amalgamated Bank is a union-owned bank with $6 billion in assets. That makes it the largest bank in the U.S. that has been designated as a “force for good” by the nonprofit B Lab. After Keith Mestrich stepped down as president and CEO in January, board chair Lynne Fox stepped in as interim chief and is leading the search for his successor.

78. Richard Witt

Executive Director, Rural & Migrant Ministry

Richard Witt
Dana Ullman

A religious man on a moral campaign, Richard Witt is an Episcopal priest who leads a migrant ministry, allying with rural, religious and labor leaders throughout New York to advance cooperative labor and equality-related causes within the farm industry of the Empire State. As the lame-duck Trump administration in December issued rules allowing farmers to spray pesticide at shorter distances to workers, Witt spoke alongside the farmworkers in his organization, which joined a lawsuit against the federal government.

79. James Mason 

President, Carpenters Local 277

An experienced construction worker, James Mason leads the Carpenters local that represents more than 3,000 members in a 21-county area spanning northern and central New York and the Southern Tier. He has spoken in favor of the city of Fulton’s new rules intended to prevent wage theft on construction projects. This past fall, Mason was named to the executive board of the North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters.

80. Suzanne Adely & Sonia Singh

Co-Directors, Food Chain Workers Alliance

As co-directors of a nonprofit that organizes front-line food workers from farm to restaurant table, Suzanne Adely and Sonia Singh advocate for 375,000 North American food workers via 31 member organizations. In New York state, the alliance is helping restaurant workers push to be included in minimum wage legislation. The alliance also supports the Good Food Purchasing Program, under which large institutions (including New York City’s public schools) source food based on healthfulness, sustainability and fair labor practices.

81. Robert Newell

President, UFCW Local 1500

Rob Newell
UFCW Local 1500

At a time of restaurant restrictions and contactless delivery, there are 32,000 grocery workers on Long Island, more than at any time since at least 1990. Thousands of them – at chains such as Stop & Shop and ShopRite – are members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500. According to its president, Robert Newell, these unionized workers are paid about $3 over the local minimum wage, more than what nonunion grocers pay.

82. Frank DeRiso

President, UFCW Local One

A looming merger between two New York supermarket chains poses a challenge and an opportunity for United Food and Commercial Workers District Union Local One President Frank DeRiso. Tops supermarket, which employs about 10,000 UFCW members in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and northern New York, is set to merge with Schenectady-based Price Chopper/Market 32, which is nonunion, to comprise 32,000 total workers across the Northeast. “We’ve got to wait and see what happens,” DeRiso told the Times Union.

83. William Lynn

Business Manager and Financial Secretary, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 30 

Art handlers and building staff at Manhattan’s Guggenheim Museum voted in 2019 to join IUOE Local 30, which after long negotiations scored a big win in February for these new members: wage increases averaging 10%, bonuses and premium-free health insurance for their families. Since 2014, William Lynn has led the local, which comprises engineering room staff at many high-profile buildings in New York and Connecticut, and he also serves as vice president of the international union.

84. Jeff Vockrodt

Executive Director, Climate Jobs NY

As head of the labor coalition Climate Jobs NY, Jeff Vockrodt has been pushing the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to finalize sites for large-scale wind energy projects off the coast of Long Island. Victory came in March when the federal agency announced it was designating as a Wind Energy Area the New York Bight, the triangle of shallow water defined on two sides by the Long Island’s South Shore and the Jersey Shore. In addition to advancing the adoption of green energy, the project is expected to create tens of thousands of good jobs in the area.

85. Keriann Shalvoy

President, Committee of Interns and Residents, SEIU Healthcare

A fourth-year resident in the psychiatry department at NYU Langone Health, Keriann Shalvoy this fall was elected president of the Committee of Interns and Residents, the labor organization that represents 17,000 intern and resident doctors in hospitals – including 7,000 in New York. Since then, she has focused on protecting her members at the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic and has launched several organizing campaigns, including one to advocate for universal forgiveness of student debt.

86. Prabhu Sigamani 

Director, ROC-New York

Prabhu Sigamani

As the restaurant industry across the state reeled from the coronavirus, the New York chapter of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers set to work training restaurant workers (online, of course) in proper pandemic-era practices for front and back of house. The local branch, which Prabhu Sigamani leads, also raised $300,000 for suffering restaurant workers nationwide. All this serves the broader cause of organizing. “We have to meet the immediate needs of people on the ground,” Sigamani told CWENET.

87. Thomas Canty

General Manager and Vice President for Labor, Government and Special Accounts, Empire BlueCross BlueShield

Thomas Canty
Peter Vidor

Thomas Canty has worked as a union lawyer and as a researcher for the state AFL-CIO, so it’s no surprise that at Empire BlueCross BlueShield he administers health insurance plans for a long list of labor unions. This year, the insurer brought on the New York State Nurses Association. “Personally, it is a true honor to have the privilege to serve nurses – the heroes who took care of New Yorkers during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” said Canty.

88. Karen Ignagni

President and CEO, EmblemHealth

Karen Ignagni

Since 2015, Karen Ignagni has headed EmblemHealth, the insurer for New York City’s public sector unions, the Teamsters, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and many other big unions. EmblemHealth waived co-pays for coronavirus-related care and established COVID-19 testing sites in underserved communities through AdvantageCare Physicians, its medical group practice. A proponent of “value-based insurance design,” Ignagni worked with New York City and its unions to set up a program with preventative services and coaching to help with chronic illnesses.

89. Michelle Zettergren

President, Labor and Public Sector, MagnaCare

Michelle Zettergren

MagnaCare is a New York-based third-party health insurance administrator that serves nationwide labor and public sector clients that are self-insured. Michelle Zettergren started in 2017 with the company, a division of Brighton Health Plan Solutions. When COVID-19 struck New York hard last year, Zettergren mobilized her MagnaCare team and partners to source personal protective equipment for essential workers and arrange COVID-19 antibody testing clinics for labor clients.

90. Kevin Mulvehill 

Partner, Phillips Lytle

Kevin Mulvehill
KC Kratt Photography

Kevin Mulvehill heads up the labor and employment practice at Phillips Lytle, a law firm with multiple offices across New York as well as in Canada and Washington, D.C. Mulvehill, who has been with the firm for nearly 15 years, is also the leader of the Rochester office. He specializes in wage litigation, class action lawsuits and corporate law while representing a range of clients in such areas as higher education, health care, cannabis and manufacturing.

91. Patrick Guidice

Business Manager, IBEW 1049

Long Island energy workers with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1049

authorized a strike against National Grid, in February, after an expired contract gave way to an extension. Ultimately the local approved a four-year contract that secured 3% annual raises for over 1,100 members. Business Manager Patrick Guidice told Newsday his rank and file’s 69% turnout for the National Grid ballot was its largest ever for a contract vote.

92. Diana Saguilán & Andrea Callan

Interim Co-Executive Directors, Worker Justice Center of New York

As longtime employees of the Worker Justice Center of New York, Diana Saguilán and Andrea Callan in October became the co-leaders of the nonprofit. WJCNY provides legal assistance and other support to farmworkers and other low-wage workers. In September, the advocacy organization filed suit against Akima Global Services, alleging that the contractor for a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Batavia used implicit threats to pressure detainees to work for $1 a day.

93. Ronald J. Walsh Jr. 

President, Council 82 / New York State Law Enforcement Officers Union

Ronald J. Walsh Jr. got his start in law enforcement in 1998 as a correction officer for the Schenectady County Sheriff’s Office and in 2005 was elected president of his New York State Law Enforcement Officers Union local. As president of Council 82 since 2012, he has represented over 3,500 police officers, sheriffs’ deputies, county correction officers, dispatchers and other public safety workers across New York state. In 2020, the Albany-based union endorsed then-President Donald Trump for reelection.

94. Jim Conigliaro Jr.

Founder, Independent Drivers Guild

Founded by Jim Conigliaro Jr., the Independent Drivers Guild formed with funds from Uber and help from the International Association of Machinists to allow gig-economy drivers to advocate for themselves – without pushing for classification as employees or the power to bargain collectively with the tech platforms. During the coronavirus pandemic, the guild got word out to its tens of thousands of New York members that as independent contractors, the drivers were eligible for Economic Injury Disaster Loans designed for business owners.

95. Luis Jiménez 

President, Alianza Agricola

Luis Jiménez
Luis Jiménez

Since the coronavirus pandemic struck, Luis Jiménez has advocated for farmworkers as vulnerable front-line workers who are often forgotten. "Without the helping hand of many undocumented workers, the majority of this country wouldn't have food on their tables,” said Jiménez, a dairy worker. He leads Alianza Agricola, a group of undocumented New York farmworkers mostly from Southern Mexico. Now the group is pushing against a federal bill that would grant legal residency for farmworkers only after eight years in the physically taxing agricultural industry.

96. Dan Maldonado

President, Teamsters Local 445

Before agreeing to a contract in November, Hudson Valley-based drivers for United Natural Foods Inc., which delivers to Whole Foods in New York City, agreed to strike over claimed violations of federal labor law, including an alleged failure to supply personal protective equipment. “Our members stood together in solidarity and were able to win substantial pay increases over the life of the contract and a quicker rise to top pay. But you cannot put a price on health and safety,” stated Dan Maldonado, who represents the approximately 120 drivers as president of Teamsters Local 445. 

97. Jessica Maxwell

Executive Director, Workers’ Center of Central New York

In May 2020, Jessica Maxwell came on as the first executive director of the Workers’ Center of Central New York. The Syracuse-based nonprofit organizes around workplace safety issues, such as the COVID-19 outbreaks that hit seasonal farm workers living in close quarters in the region last year. The longtime community organizer has also advocated for the state’s economic safety net to be extended to undocumented immigrants.

98. Lara Skinner

Director, Labor Leading on Climate Initiative at Cornell University

Lara Skinner
Cornell University

As director of Cornell’s Labor Leading on Climate Initiative, Lara Skinner has been at the forefront of advocating for all facets of wind turbine adoption – installation, assembly and manufacturing – to be based in the United States. In September, Skinner was named to the state’s Just Transition Working Group, which advises on the state's transition to renewable energy, and said she plans to ensure that the switchover to a zero-emissions electrical grid protects workers and creates good jobs.

99. Pete Meyers

Coordinator, Tompkins County Workers’ Center

Pete Meyers
Gina Lord

Pete Meyers, through the Tompkins County Workers’ Center that he co-founded, advocates for workers’ rights and racial and economic justice. The workers’ center certifies local workplaces as “living wage employers” and supports a group of retail and service sector workers who organize in the county, which is home to Ithaca. In March, the group came out in support of the state bailout fund for so-called excluded workers, including undocumented immigrants.

100. Ilana Berger

New York Director and Strategic Adviser, Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Network

Hand in Hand is a network of those who employ nannies, cleaners and other domestic workers and seek to maintain ethical standards. To that point, the COVID-19 pandemic has raised a host of new, tough questions, so the nonprofit has created a series of resources for both workers and employers. As New York leader of the network, Ilana Berger brings the perspective of a longtime advocate and community organizer who has employed childcare providers.

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