the DC 37 Officers
photo for bio
District Council 37
On Nov. 27, 2012, Lillian Roberts was unanimously re-elected to a fifth term as Executive Director of District Council 37, AFSCME, New York City’s largest public employee union. District Council 37 represents 121,000 public workers in New York City and state, 50,000 retirees, 1,000 job titles and 54 locals. She is also a Vice President of the New York State AFL-CIO, a Vice President of the NYC Central Labor Council, and Co-Chair of the Municipal Labor Committee.
Ms. Roberts identified her priorities for her fifth term, which began when she was sworn in on Jan. 22, 2013, as negotiating a new contract, winning additional compensation for certain titles through a salary review process with the city, and overseeing the return to DC 37’s headquarters, which was seriously damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
In 2012, Ms. Roberts was re-elected without opposition to a three-year term as International Vice President of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees at the AFSCME 40th International Convention in Los Angeles. She was first elected to this post in 2011.
A former NYS Commissioner of Labor, Ms. Roberts was first elected DC 37 Executive Director on Feb. 26, 2002. She was the union’s first female Executive Director. She was re-elected to a three-year term on Jan. 27, 2004, and again on Jan. 23, 2007.
In her first term, Ms. Roberts focused the union’s energy on fighting for a fair contract for members. Ms. Roberts led the DC 37 Bargaining Committee in contract negotiations with NYC to provide raises and safeguard the benefits of the union members who make the city run. The three-year contract settlement, which DC 37 members ratified by 89% in June 2004, provided retroactive raises and a first-year lump sum of $1,000.
In 2006 Ms. Roberts led negotiations for a new contract including a 10% raise, additional funding for the union’s Health and Security Funds, and no concessions. It was considered one of the best contracts in the union’s history and was approved by 97% of the members. An energetic follow-up campaign by DC 37 led to the 2009 lifting of residency restrictions, the final key provision of that contract. Her leadership in the next round of negotiations on the 2008–2010 contract led to raises of 8.18% for the union’s members.
Ms. Roberts has always opposed costly government waste and privatization of public services. DC 37 issued four initial white papers under her guidance identifying up to $3 billion that could be saved by eliminating private consultants and letting city employees do the work. City agencies phased in some of DC 37’s early cost-saving proposals, maintaining services while saving millions in taxpayer dollars — productivity gains that led to an additional 1% raise for DC 37 members in 2005.
However, when funding for the city's contract budget increased rapidly after 2005, climbing to a record cost of $9.2 billion for more than 18,000 contracts, DC 37 issued a fifth white paper in 2009 under her leadership titled “Massive Waste in a Time of Need.” The union has continued to push the city to cut wasteful spending through a campaign that has included award-winning subway ads, TV and radio spots, testimony and lobbying.
With housing costs rising, Ms. Roberts approached the Mayor with a proposal to give DC 37 members and municipal workers an affordable way to meet the city’s then requirement that they live in the five boroughs. The result, launched in 2005, is the innovative DC 37 Municipal Employees Housing Program. The program allows DC 37 members and city workers preference for 5% of units in city-sponsored lotteries for affordable homes and apartments; down payment grants through the NYC Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development; and homebuyer training and education through Neighborhood Housing Services.
Lillian Roberts has a long, proud history as a unionist. She grew up in the tenements of Chicago’s South Side and became a nurse’s aide. In 1959, she joined the hospital local of AFSCME’s District Council 34 becoming a shop steward and officer. She was hired as a staff rep by AFSCME District Council 19 in Chicago, spearheaded the creation of five locals, and led an organizing drive in four Chicago mental hospitals. In 1965, Ms. Roberts moved to New York from Chicago to build up DC 37’s Hospitals Division. She led the union’s campaign to organize thousands of city hospital workers in 1966.
Ms. Roberts was Associate Director of DC 37 from 1967 to 1981 under Victor Gotbaum. She played a major role in organizing new members and establishing an array of benefits, including the largest union-based adult education program in the U.S. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Ms. Roberts brought thousands of workers in federally funded jobs into the union. During her 17-year tenure with DC 37, the union’s ranks skyrocketed from 30,000 to 120,000.
More recently, under Ms. Roberts’ leadership, DC 37 won the right in 2004 to represent 2,600 Job Training Participants, who the union pushes the city to hire upon completion of their training, and in 2007, in cooperation with AFSCME, the union established a DC 37 Organizing Department to reach out to non-union workers in DC 37-related titles and bring them the benefits of union membership.
District Council 37
DC 37 President Eddie Rodriguez was unanimously elected to his second term as president of DC 37 on Nov. 27, 2012, and sworn in on January 22, 2013. He has served as president of NYC Clerical-Administrative Employees Local 1549 since 2001. His road to leadership began at the Dyckman Welfare Center in Inwood, near the Washington Heights and Spanish Harlem neighborhoods where he grew up.
“Today is a new day,” said Rodriguez. “Tomorrow we fight to defeat Mayor Bloomberg’s attempt to slash services, lay off workers and squander billions of taxpayers’ dollars on outside contracts for work that public employees can do far more effectively, efficiently and responsibly for less.”
In 1972, Rodriquez started work as a Grade II Clerk for the Welfare Dept. and served as an alternate steward, DC 37 delegate, social services chapter chair, sergeant-at-arms and fifth vice president for Local 1549. He was also a founder and co-chair of the Local 1549 Latino Heritage Committee and is a former vice president of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. Rodriguez and his wife, Adelina, have three children.
He was in his fourth term on the DC 37 Executive Board at the time he was first elected DC 37 president in 2011. He was a member of the DC 37 Ethics Committee and has served as a vice president of DC 37ís parent union, AFSCME, since 2003.
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Secretary, District Council 37
jobs since 1970
DC 37 President Cliff Koppelman was re-elected to his fifth term as secretary of DC 37 on Jan. 22, 2013. He has decades of union experience and has served since 1996 as president of Court, County and Dept. of Probation Employees Local 1070.
"I like the work as secretary," he said. "We've
made some subtle changes in how the minutes are reported, in accord with our constitution.
It's an important responsibility to provide a complete and accurate official record
of DC 37. The minutes also tell our history."
When he's not involved
with his official duties, Koppelman loves to read on a variety of subjects, especially
history. He nurtured this interest during his years in the U.S. Air Force, and
traveled and lived for four years in the Far East and Germany, an experience that
shaped and broadened his outlook.
"You use your experience and do
what you can to protect the people you represent," he said. He appreciates
the recent vote of confidence and said, "I'm glad to be part of the team
that is moving DC 37 and its membership into the future."
He is confident
that the union can weather the difficult economy and perilous job situation. "We've
been through this before - in the 1970s, '80s and '90s. A forward-looking attitude
and cooperative team spirit are very important as we face these hard times,"
Koppelman lives in Brooklyn with his wife of over 40 years, Natalie.
The Erasmus High School graduate grew up in East Flatbush and attended college.
has studied judo, competed in auto racing, and brings that fighting spirit to
the work he does on behalf of DC 37's membership.
Koppelman is proud of
the improvements Local 1070 has won for its members.
"The amount of
time we spend on the job makes it especially important that members are not working
in an environment that's a danger to their health," he said.
Public Employee Press
Maf Misbah Uddin
District Council 37
Union members fiscal watchdog
As the nation's only Bangladeshi local union president, Treasurer Maf Misbah Uddin - unanimously reelected on Nov. 27, 2012 and sworn in on Jan. 22, 2013 - personifies the rich diversity of District Council 37.
His union work is driven by his commitment to social
and economic justice. He attributes his idealism to his father, a leader from
Bengal who was jailed with Mahatma Gandhi during the nonviolent movement against
Uddin became active in the union soon after joining
the city workforce as an Actuary in 1988. He holds master's degrees in mathematics,
demography and actuarial science, and he has served as president of Accountants,
Statisticians and Actuaries Local 1407 since 2000.
Now in his fourth term as treasurer, Uddin takes pride in his push to improve DC 37's budgetary practices. Now in his third term
as treasurer, Uddin takes pride in his push to improve DC 37's budgetary practices.
As treasurer, he is in charge of a $38 million budget.
a budget process that has improved transparency and includes working closely with
the accounting and executive staff to analyze spending plans submitted by division
and department heads. This change allows for better long-term planning.
the union lumped together operating and capital expenses, but the union now has
a separate capital budget of about $1 million. An "obsolescence control"
plan establishes a schedule for replacing capital equipment, such as photocopying
and fax machines, as well as furniture and computers. The capital budget also
covers other major information technology expenses, such as security and software
As a union leader, Uddin has promoted immigrant
rights and greater cultural diversity within the labor movement. He chairs the
DC 37 Asian Heritage Committee and serves on the board of the AFL-CIO's Asian
Pacific American Labor Alliance, which works to organize more Asian workers and
heighten their political influence. He is also the founder and president of the Alliance of South Asian American Labor.
Gregory N. Heires
Public Employee Press