The 2020 Labor Power 100: 11-50

#1 on City & State's Labor Power 100,  UFT President Michael Mulgrew.
#1 on City & State's Labor Power 100,  UFT President Michael Mulgrew.
Richard Drew/AP/Shutterstock
#1 on City & State's Labor Power 100, UFT President Michael Mulgrew.
Power 100

The 2020 Labor Power 100: 11-50

Recognizing the most influential figures in New York labor.

11. Mark Cannizzaro

President, Council of School Supervisors and Administrators

Mark Cannizzaro, who runs the union representing New York City school principals, says it’s too soon to get students back into the classroom, and he’s urging City Hall to delay in-person learning. He told NY1 in August that school administrators and teachers need more time to safely coordinate remote and in-person learning. Principals “don’t have all the answers they would like to have for the families and parents,” Cannizzaro said.

12. Christopher Shelton & Dennis Trainor

President; Vice President, Communications Workers of America; CWA District 1

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Chris Shelton and Dennis Trainor
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Chris Shelton and Dennis Trainor
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Photo by a katz; courtesy Communications Workers of America

The pandemic has shown how unions protect workers from “the abuse of corporate power,” CWA President Christopher Shelton told a virtual conference in June. Shelton and the union’s District 1 vice president, Dennis Trainor, have both stressed the importance of the coming election and racial justice to their 145,000 members in District 1. They warn tens of thousands more layoffs could be ahead if Congress fails to provide financial aid.

13. Harry Nespoli

President, Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association, Teamsters Local 831

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Harry Nespoli
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Harry Nespoli
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Harry Nespoli
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Harry Nespoli
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Photo courtesy the Uniformed Sanitationmens Association

Harry Nespoli is trying to stem the impact of budget cuts to his union’s membership, who are the essential workers keeping the city clean. Done poorly, the fiscal tightening could lead to overflowing trash cans and workers untrained in snow removal come winter, he warns. As the chair of New York City’s Municipal Labor Committee, Nespoli recently accused Mayor Bill de Blasio of prematurely spreading fear about possible layoffs among city workers. 

14. Scott Stringer

New York City Comptroller

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New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer
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New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer
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New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer
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New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer
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New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer
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Office of the New York City Comptroller

Among the city officials who joined essential workers in honoring Janitors for Justice and the Black Lives Matter movement in June, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer described those on the front lines as the “backbone of our city.” Stringer, whose mother died of COVID-19 in April, penned a report to Gov. Andrew Cuomo on the city’s response to the pandemic. He has also proposed shifting police department funds to vulnerable communities.

15. Jessica Ramos

Chair, State Senate Committee on Labor

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Sean Pressley

Known to friends and colleagues for her no-nonsense approach, Jessica Ramos’ penchant for bluntness helped position her as an outspoken progressive in her first term as a state senator. In July, she blasted Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s nominations for the New York State Court of Claims for lacking diversity, saying the judges would play “an integral role in ensuring the state and its respective authorities are held accountable when sued.”

16. Rich Maroko

President, New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council

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Rich Maroko
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Rich Maroko
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Rich Maroko has big shoes to fill as he succeeds the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council’s longtime leader, Peter Ward. And the stakes are even higher due to a pandemic that is threatening the union’s 40,000 members. The hotel industry is generating little revenue, and health care costs run about $50 million a month, although the union has an influential ally in New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

17. Randi Weingarten

President, American Federation of Teachers

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AFT

If authorities don’t look out for the health and safety of educators, “nothing is off the table.” So says Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the country’s second-largest teachers union. The AFT will engage in actions including advocacy, protests, negotiations, grievances, lawsuits and walkouts to ensure schools safely reopen to protect its 1.7 million members, she told her union’s online convention in July.

18. John Samuelsen

International President, Transport Workers Union 

The federal government’s “sorely needed” multibillion-dollar bailout of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority spared it a massive financial hit, but only temporarily, according to John Samuelsen, president of the Transport Workers Union International. The influential transit union leader recently penned an op-ed with the MTA’s Pat Foye warning that the system is facing “a five-alarm-fire” – and that U.S. Senate Republicans seem “content to sit back and do nothing while it burns.”

19. Tony Utano

President, Transport Workers Union Local 100 

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President of the TWU Local 100 Tony Utano
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President of the TWU Local 100 Tony Utano
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President of the TWU Local 100 Tony Utano
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President of the TWU Local 100 Tony Utano
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President of the TWU Local 100 Tony Utano
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Transport Workers Union Local 100 was fighting for masks from the start of the current public health crisis. “Our members want them. It’s peace of mind,” Tony Utano, president of the local, told City & State earlier this year. The union, which represents New York City transit workers, also pushed to keep employees in token booths from having to collect cash, and for partitions in buses between the public and operators.

20. Thomas DiNapoli

State Comptroller

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Elected to his local board of education when he was 18, Thomas DiNapoli ran because he wanted the views of students to be heard. The three-term state comptroller intends to run again in 2022. Lately, he’s called for federal aid for states and towns hammered by COVID-19. “Without action, communities may need to make severe cuts to critical services,” he stated in August.

21. Pat Kane

Executive Director, New York State Nurses Association

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Pat Kane
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Pat Kane
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Pat Kane
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Taking the helm of the state’s largest nurses union in December, former operating-room nurse Pat Kane was soon tackling safety issues related to the coronavirus. NYSNA has staged protests and gone to court to demand that more be done to protect members, including more personal protective equipment, adequate testing and paid time off for those ordered to self-quarantine. In August, NYSNA stated its opposition to in-person schooling this fall.

22. Andrew Gounardes

Chair, State Senate Civil Service and Pensions Committee 

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Andrew Gounardes
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Andrew Gounardes
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Since his 2018 election, when he ousted Brooklyn’s last Republican senator, Andrew Gounardes has proved to be an avid supporter of public sector employees. He called for a delay of in-person learning until “we have the safety protocols and PPE for teachers to feel safe.” For instance, he noted that the city’s plan called for custodians to keep soap dispensers fully stocked, but offered no details as to how the supply chain would work.

23. Peter Abbate Jr.

Chair, Assembly Governmental Employees Committee

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Assemblyman Peter Abbate Jr.
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Assemblyman Peter Abbate Jr.
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Assemblyman Peter Abbate Jr.
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Assemblyman Peter Abbate Jr.
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Assemblyman Peter Abbate Jr.
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New York State Assembly

A strong advocate for public sector employees, Peter Abbate Jr. helped pass a bill in late May providing financial benefits to the families of public workers who died of COVID-19. In June, the longtime Assembly member joined other Brooklyn politicians in hosting a virtual roundtable with Chinese American community and business leaders to address their needs during the pandemic, particularly in light of rising xenophobia and discrimination.

24. Wayne Spence

President, New York State Public Employees Federation

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New York State Public Employees Federation

As the state continues to reopen during the pandemic, Wayne Spence is pushing Gov. Andrew Cuomo to require adequate air filtration systems in buildings where state workers are employed. Making the call as president of one of the state’s largest public labor unions, Spence in July said the same standards should apply to the public sector as those the state imposes on large malls and other private sector businesses.

25. Patrick Lynch

President, New York City Police Benevolent Association

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Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch.
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Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch.
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Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch.
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Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch.
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Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch.
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The outspoken leader of the union representing 24,000 active-duty police officers, Patrick Lynch is known for expressing his indignation anytime an officer is criticized. He did, however, call the police killing of George Floyd “murder.” Lynch’s opposition to police reform was overrun in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests this summer, with chokeholds now banned across the state and the repeal of a law that shielded records of police misconduct. 

26. Jake Lemonda

President, Uniformed Fire Officers Association

Six-term president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association Jake Lemonda has been focused on the coronavirus and its impact on firefighters. Firefighters no longer socialize with their replacements at the end of their shifts, and the FDNY has also suspended the practice of letting firefighters pick up shifts at other station houses to mitigate the spread. “There’s as little interaction as possible to limit exposure,” he said in March.

27. Gregory Floyd

President, Teamsters Local 237

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Gregory Floyd
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Photo courtesy of Local 237

The movement to defund the NYPD has Teamsters Local 237 President Gregory Floyd up in arms over a related idea that would impact his union’s more than 5,000 school safety agents. Floyd strongly opposes a proposal to transfer responsibility for school safety back to the New York City Department of Education. In March, he criticized Mayor Bill de Blasio for failing to provide personal protective equipment for thousands of city workers. 

28. Christopher Erikson

Business Manager, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 3

Christopher Erikson is touting the potential of the Champlain Hudson Power Express transmission line project to create more than 2,000 much-needed construction jobs. In an op-ed in the Gotham Gazette in July, Erickson called for such public works efforts to “put wages for working New Yorkers back into the economy and let our hard-hit state speed the healing by rebuilding our aging infrastructure.”

29. Robert Bonanza & Michael McGuire

Business Manager; PAC director, Mason Tenders’ District Council of Greater New York and Long Island

Robert Bonanza and Michael McGuire have built the Mason Tenders into a powerhouse that is actively addressing sexism on the job. After New York City-based Trade Off Construction Services agreed in July to pay $1.5 million to settle discrimination claims by 18 women, Bonanza said that “sexual harassment in the construction industry is pervasive, but the state of New York will always be on the side of the workers.”

30. Andrew Ansbro

President, Uniformed Firefighters Association of Greater New York

With firefighters distressed by the Uniformed Firefighters Association’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, Andrew Ansbro challenged and defeated incumbent Gerard Fitzgerald in June. Members saw inmates and even tigers getting tested for COVID-19, yet had a hard time getting tested themselves, Ansbro told reporters in July. “This has to be handled differently if there’s another flare-up,” the FDNY marine engineer and former cop added.

31. Renee Campion

Commissioner, New York City Office of Labor Relations

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Renee Campion, New York City labor relations commissioner.
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Renee Campion, New York City labor relations commissioner.
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Renee Campion, New York City labor relations commissioner.
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Renee Campion, New York City labor relations commissioner.
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Renee Campion, New York City labor relations commissioner.
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In charge of negotiating labor pacts with 150 bargaining units representing more than 360,000 workers, Renee Campion has held the commissioner’s job less than two years but has been with the labor office for nearly two decades. Among her accomplishments: the de Blasio administration has reached an agreement with nearly 84% of the workforce, including civilian and uniformed employees, for the 2017-2021 round of bargaining, according to the city’s website.

32. George Miranda

President, Teamsters Joint Council 16

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George Miranda
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International Brotherhood of Teamsters

The U.S. Supreme Court’s June rejection of a challenge to the DACA program that keeps 650,000 young people from deportation was huge for Teamsters Joint Council 16 President George Miranda. “We cannot have worker rights without immigrant rights, or vice versa,” Miranda, who also heads the Teamsters National Hispanic Caucus, said in a statement. During New York City’s reopening, Miranda urged elected officials to ensure the safety of essential workers – who are predominantly people of color.

33. John Durso

President, Long Island Federation of Labor

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John Durso
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John Durso
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John Durso
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Photo courtesy Local 338 RWDSU

In April, John Durso, leader of Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW, shined a light on what he called “a group of unsung heroes who go to work and take care of the public every day.” Grocery and pharmacy workers were confronted with far more customers than usual once the pandemic hit, increasing concerns for themselves and their families, Durso wrote in a piece for Long Island Business News.

34. Mary Sullivan

President, Civil Service Employees Association

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A longtime union official and activist, Mary Sullivan took over as president of one of New York’s main public employee unions when Danny Donohue retired in November. In July, Sullivan declared her union’s support for equality for African Americans and the Black Lives Matter movement, but not for defunding police. She also urged a collective fight for federal aid to protect public services and the jobs provided by members.

35. Roberta Reardon

Commissioner, State Department of Labor

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Roberta Reardon
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Roberta Reardon
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NYSDOL

As state labor commissioner, Roberta Reardon has faced her share of pressure during the coronavirus pandemic. By mid-May, her agency had fielded roughly 20,000 complaints related to workplace safety and the coronavirus, and was swamped by a flood of unemployment claims after Gov. Andrew Cuomo shut down all nonessential businesses for two months. Reardon credits her agency with creating a streamlined application to process claims more quickly.

36 I. Daneek Miller

Chair, New York City Council Civil Service and Labor Committee

A former bus driver and president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1056, New York City Council Member I. Daneek Miller made boosting pay for emergency medical workers even more of a mission after COVID-19 hit. Miller’s colleagues backed his resolution in May calling on the city to close the wage gap between FDNY emergency medical service workers and firefighters, who earn much more.

37. D. Taylor

President, Unite Here

D. Taylor is leading Unite Here at a difficult time. At one point, 98% of the union’s more than 300,000 members – including airport, casino, food service and hotel workers – lost their jobs during the pandemic. Taylor, who joined the union after college and has served as its president since 2012, recently joined other labor leaders in calling for an extension of the $600 weekly federal unemployment benefits.

38. Ai-jen Poo

Executive Director, National Domestic Workers Alliance

Ai-jen Poo says the coronavirus thrust vulnerable domestic workers further into crisis. Before COVID-19 hit, home care workers worked long and unpredictable hours, earning little and without paid time off, sick days or health care, she told Time magazine in May. Those who lost clients suffered financially, while those still working didn’t have personal protective equipment or access to testing or medical care, she said of the situation.

39. James Cahill

President, New York State Building & Construction Trades Council

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NYS Building & Construction Trades Council

As business advocates slammed an expansion of the state’s prevailing wage, Jim Cahill was among the labor leaders defending the changes adopted in April and slated to take effect in 2022, calling it “a big win for the trades.” As president of the union representing more than 200,000 construction workers across the state, Cahill is among those advising the governor on New York’s reopening and response to the coronavirus.

40. Barbara Bowen

President, Professional Staff Congress

The president of the union representing City University of New York professors wants the university to detail how it plans to use $132 million of federal stimulus money, even as it axes workers. “Congress named job protection at colleges as one of the purposes of the stimulus bill,” Barbara Bowen said in July as the union sued the university over its decision to lay off 2,800 adjunct staff.

41. Frederick Kowal

President, United University Professions

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Frederick Kowal
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Frederick Kowal
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As New York’s public colleges and universities readied to reopen campuses in recent weeks, the union representing staff and faculty held a rally calling for safety measures to combat the spread of COVID-19. Last month, United University Professions President Frederick Kowal stressed the importance of following safety protocols, called for more resources on college campuses, including testing, contact tracing and mandatory masks, and urged schools to include remote learning in reopening plans. 

42. Anthony Wells

President, Social Service Employees Union Local 371

In his role as president of SSEU Local 371, Anthony Wells is strongly advocating for early retirement incentives for city workers, given the budget shortfall created by the pandemic. Wells is a member of the Municipal Labor Committee, which is also urging New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to consider proposals that could provide full benefits to thousands of workers without penalty, according to his union’s August newsletter.

43. Carmen Charles

President, Municipal Hospital Employees Union Local 420

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Carmen Charles
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Local 420

Carmen Charles wanted members of Municipal Hospital Employees Union Local 420 – including employees of hospitals, jails and morgues – to have equal access to N95 masks early in the pandemic. “If you work in a hospital, you are exposed to the same kind of virus as the doctors and nurses,” Charles told the New York Times. She also pushed for death benefits for families of public employees who died of COVID-19.

44. Benny Boscio

President, Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association

Elected in a landslide in late June, Benny Boscio faces major challenges as president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council have already agreed to close the prison on Rikers Island, and potential layoffs are also on the horizon due to budget cuts. Boscio’s election marked his union’s first since its former leader was convicted of taking bribes.

45. Ed Mullins

President, Sergeants Benevolent Association

Ed Mullins, president of the NYPD’s Sergeants Benevolent Association, makes no apologies for being outspoken. As he explained to NY1 in July, “When you call the health commissioner a bitch, and people get offended by it, it draws attention to the issue.” And yes, Mullins did just that on Twitter in a highly public spat over face masks for officers.

46. Patrick Purcell Jr.

Executive Director, Greater New York Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust

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Greater NY LECET

After the coronavirus hit, “an overwhelming amount of construction workers were simply terrified,” Patrick Purcell Jr. said. As he told the AFL-CIO’s Union Strong Podcast in May, “one of the benefits of having a union is you can speak up.” The safety concerns remain, especially since construction was among the first industries to get back up and running.

47. Rebecca Damon

Executive Vice President, SAG-AFTRA

Reelected to a two-year term this past fall, Rebecca Damon’s role has recently included having to relay news of member deaths from COVID-19 this year. That includes actor Mark Blum, who acted in the Netflix series “You.” As Damon wrote in a letter to members at the end of March, “This destructive disease has torn a hole in our community and in our hearts.”

48. Beverley Brakeman

Regional Director, United Auto Workers Region 9A

Beverley Brakeman, who was elected director of the United Auto Workers Region 9A in 2018, is bulking up its membership. In July, Brakeman welcomed nearly 100 investigators and interpreters from the Legal Aid Society, who joined thousands of other legal-services workers represented by Region 9A. The union is planning on “bargaining a first contract to further improve the quality of representation of marginalized New Yorkers during this unprecedented pandemic,” she stated.

49. Shaun D. Francois I

President, District Council 37

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Shaun Francois
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Shaun Francois
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Shaun Francois

District Council 37 President Shaun D. Francois I is also president of the New York City Board of Education Employees Local 372, which represents almost 24,000 school crossing guards, lunch workers and health aides. In April, Francois visited schools to distribute personal protective equipment, since about 8,000 workers in DC 37’s school division still had to report to work during the pandemic to serve meals to students and staff members.

50. Gloria Middleton

President, Communications Workers of America Local 1180

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Gloria Middleton
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Gloria Middleton
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Gloria Middleton

Gloria Middleton, the first female president of the Communications Workers of America Local 1180, led negotiations that had more than 8,100 administrative employees and supervisors in New York City government starting the year with higher wages. The union recently won the right to unionize hundreds of assistant directors at city hospitals and clinics, but said it isn’t being provided with a list of people in that position.

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