Lillian Roberts - DC37 Saturdays 3pm
Lillian Roberts? Lillian Roberts is currently the Executive Director of DC37, the largest municipal union in New York City. She was first elected to this position in 2002. Roberts was originally a nurse’s aide, and was secretary of the University of Chicago Hospital local when she was invited by Victor Gotbaum to join his AFSCME union staff in Chicago. This began a professional relationship between Gotbaum and Roberts that lasted for years. When Gotbaum became head of DC37, Roberts joined him in New York as a director of hospital field operations, and eventually became Associate Director in charge of organization.. In 1969, she was jailed for two weeks for defying New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller and leading a strike against three mental hospitals. In 1981, after events which decreased her power in DC37, she left the union and was appointed as New York State industrial commissioner, the first black woman to hold such a high post in New York. From 1987 to 1992, she was senior vice president of Total Health Systems, an HMO. DC37 was involved in a major scandal in the late 1990s, and Roberts return to DC37 as Executive Director in 2002, was seen, as noted in Robert's words, as a return to that "old time religion". Little about Lillian Roberts fits the labor leader stereotype. She's a woman, for one. She's also African American and pushing 80. But there's one trait this former New York labor commissioner does share with America's iconic labor leaders: she drives a hard bargain. Roberts got her start in the rough-and-tumble labor world as an organizer for nurses at the University of Chicago Hospital. A colleague then lured her to New York City, where she helped him run District Council 37. DC 37 (as it's known) is a union affiliate of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) — the largest in the city. Lillian Roberts spent the next two decades behind the scenes at AFSCME until she left to work in private industry. But a far-reaching corruption scandal rocked DC 37 in her absence, and Roberts' labor colleagues asked her to return to the union — this time, to run it. In 2002, she did just that. Roberts' tenure at DC 37 got off to a rocky start. When the union's board tried to cut her pay, she sued them for sex, age and race discrimination. But the board settled before the case ever made it to court. In January 2010, Roberts won re-election by a landslide and recently negotiated an unusually sweet, new wage contract for her members.