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City & State’s 2021 New York State Labor Power 100 - The Union Leaders & Worker Rights Advocates ‘Who Are Fighting For A Stronger’ New York

Published Wednesday, May 12, 2021
by City & State
City & State’s 2021 New York State Labor Power 100 - The Union Leaders & Worker Rights Advocates ‘Who Are Fighting For A Stronger’ New York

For generations, New York has been at the forefront of the fight for Worker Rights.

In 1909, Clara Lemlich rallied her fellow Textile Workers in the Uprising of the 20,000 to demand better working conditions.

Two years later in 1911, outrage over the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire led to concrete legislative changes to better protect Workers.

That deadly disaster also spurred Frances Perkins to become a champion for Workers, spearheading groundbreaking Labor reforms both in New York and then nationally as President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Labor Secretary.

In the decades since, New York Labor Leaders have been influential players in the state’s political arena – including in present-day fights with corporate behemoths like Amazon and Uber. 

City & State’s New York State Labor Power 100 recognizes Labor Leaders and Worker Rights Advocates on the front lines of today’s battles, whether it’s raising wages, protecting Immigrants or seeking safe conditions during the Coronavirus Pandemic.

For the first time, City & State is dividing the Labor Power 100 into two.

Later this year, the New York City Labor Power 100 will highlight those who work primarily or exclusively within the five boroughs.

The New York State Labor Power 100 - written and reported in partnership with Journalist Trevor Boyer - features individuals in national, statewide, regional or local roles with a significant footprint outside of the five boroughs: 

  1. George Gresham, President, 1199 SEIU (Service Employees International Union) - George Gresham (pictured above, top third) was the only Labor Leader named to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 25-member vaccine rollout team in September. Since 2007, he has been President of the highly influential 1199 SEIU Union, which represents over 450,000 Caregivers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and more on the East Coast. In February, 1199 SEIU Nursing Home Workers at Highland Park in Wellsville won a new three-year contract with wage increases following a three-day Strike in September.
  2. Andrew Pallotta, President, New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) - Representing over 600,000 Faculty and Staff at New York’s K-12 schools and universities as President of NYSUT, Andrew Pallotta (pictured above, bottom left) and his Union became key players in one of the great pandemic-era political battles. As local school districts endeavored to resume in-person teaching, NYSUT urged caution at every turn, defending its Members while earning the ire of many weary parents. In January, Pallotta continued to insist districts stop in-person instruction if the locale has 9% or higher COVID-19 positivity for a seven-day period.
  3. Gary LaBarbera, President, Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York - Representing 200,000 Workers in various construction-related jobs, the Building and Construction Trades Council advocates for Unionized Blue-Collar Workers across the state. This past legislative season, President Gary LaBarbera (pictured above, bottom right) pushed for a Wage Theft Law that would hold the general contractor or construction manager liable for any money owed, and lobbied for Prevailing Wage Standards and the codification of Labor Standards in Green Energy Jobs - both for related construction and for permanent Energy Sector Jobs.
  4. Mario Cilento, President, New York State AFL-CIO - New York’s Workers have struggled throughout the Coronavirus Pandemic, but Mario Cilento and the State AFL-CIO have been delivering for their Members. Since Cilento was unanimously re-elected as leader of the 3,000-Union Federation last Summer, he’s gone on to successfully lobby the Legislature to pass the NY Hero Act, which sets standards for workplace safety as the pandemic stretches into its second year. He also lobbied to legalize recreational marijuana and to fund health care and education through higher taxes on the wealthy
  5. Jessica Ramos, Chair, State Senate Committee on Labor - This is what a supermajority looks like. Labor-related legislation in New York passes through the State Senate committee chaired by Jessica Ramos, and this year the second-term Lawmaker from Queens introduced yet another headline-grabbing Bill. The legislation ultimately passed in the annual budget as a $2.1 billion Unemployment Fund for so-called excluded Workers, typically undocumented Workers in front-line positions who have been hard-hit by the pandemic.  Also, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a Bill in February that Ramos sponsored that created a statewide registry of construction-related deaths.

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