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Our Statewide Union Leadership

CSEA’s statewide officers are democratically elected every four years by our union members to lead our union forward. Meet them here!

President Mary Sullivan

For more than 35 years, Mary E. Sullivan has fought tirelessly for working people’s interests at the grassroots, statewide, and national levels. By mobilizing workers and encouraging internal communication, Sullivan has helped strengthen CSEA’s position as New York’s leading union.

Sullivan began her professional career as an employee of the Herkimer County Department of Social Services. She advanced through the union ranks, serving first as president of the Herkimer County employees unit and then as president of Herkimer County Local 822. She also served as treasurer and 1st vice president of CSEA’s Central Region.

Sullivan was the first local government official to serve in CSEA statewide office when she was chosen in 1986 by the CSEA statewide Board of Directors to fill a vacancy as treasurer of the union. She went on to twice win overwhelming re-election. Sullivan was elected Executive Vice President in 1994. On November 1, 2019, she became the second woman president of CSEA, and the very first CSEA member from our Local Government Division to serve in the role of president.

Sullivan has also served as a founding trustee of CSEA’s Political Action Fund since its inception, and previously served as both Vice-Chair and Chair of CSEA’s Local Government Executive Committee. She has been a driving force behind CSEA’s Labor Education and Development (LEAD) program, helping to mold and mentor the next generation of union leaders.

A key player in CSEA’s International Union, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), she was elected an AFSCME International Vice President in 1996 and named to its PEOPLE Committee, which raises funds to elect pro-labor candidates.

Sullivan earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from SUNY College at Potsdam and is a graduate of the Harvard Trade Union Program at Harvard University. She is a member of the Capital District Chapter of Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW), the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) and Pride@Work (P@W).

An active community volunteer, Sullivan continues to serve on the United Way of New York State Board and currently is Board Treasurer of 211NY. She has received numerous awards and recognitions for her service and achievement.

In 2012, Sullivan received the Frances Perkins Award from Eleanor’s Legacy, an organization named in honor of Eleanor Roosevelt dedicated to building a new generation of New York women leaders. The award recognizes the leadership of a New Yorker active in the organized labor movement who is dedicated to improving New Yorkers’ quality of life on and off the job.

In 2018, Sullivan also received the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) New York Chapter’s ‘Woman of Valor’ award, which recognized women in labor unions for outstanding service and leadership qualities.

Sullivan was also recently honored with the American Labor Studies Center’s Kate Mullany Medal, named for the 19th century Irish immigrant who organized and led the Collar Workers Union in Troy, for her ongoing work in urging women to become labor activists and for her own union leadership.

Secretary Denise Berkley

For more than 46 years Denise Berkley has worked to ensure working men and women have the power of a union behind them with an effective voice to build power, provide security and ensure opportunity for working families.

Her union activism began at the Brooklyn Developmental Center (BDC) where she started working as a Mental Health Therapy Aide (MHTA) in 1979. Her ‘can-do’ attitude catapulted her to a union representative position and two years later, she ran for president of her CSEA Local and won.

Denise Berkley’s historic election to the office of Statewide Secretary for CSEA in 2008 serves as a vivid example of a union member who learned that to make a difference, you must get involved. She has since served as an integral member of the Executive Leadership Team working to keep CSEA strong, united and resilient against the anti-union attacks which have become far too common in recent years.

Berkley’s philosophy is that through advocating for equal rights, economic justice and social justice, we can build bridges to progress and lift people out of poverty. She lives her values— actively championing the rights of women, minorities and children through her work in the labor movement and community.

A longtime union activist, she remains just as committed today to the ongoing struggle for social, racial and economic justice for workers and communities, as when her activism began as a leader in the local struggle against apartheid in South Africa in her youth.

Berkley is the chair of AFSCME’s Racial, Social and Economic Justice Workgroup where she leads union members across the country in addressing racism and injustice both in the labor movement and in the larger national conversation.

A member of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) for 34 years, and now as the CBTU National Women’s Chair since May 2013, Berkley has won numerous awards for her activism from various chapters of the CBTU including the prestigious Rising Star Awardfrom the International; recognizing her leadership and commitment to equal rights.

She has also received the Labor Council for Latin America Advancement (LCLAA) Community Engagement Award; the Commitment and Contributions to the Labor Movement and Community Award from SOMOS Inc., recognition of her service in an Official Proclamation from State Comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli; the Bertram G. Harris Civil Service Award from the New York State Employees Brotherhood Committee, Inc. and Labor Leader of the Year from the NY State Association of Black & Puerto Rican Legislators.

Berkley has mentored and empowered women of color helping them improve their unions, run for leadership positions within their unions and run for political office in their communities. Berkley said this her greatest achievement of all. She said, “Leadership needs to be visionary and look 20-30 years into the future. “This is why she is active in the CSEA Next Wave movement and serves as the officer liaison to the Statewide Next Wave Advisory Committee, sharing her skills of leadership and empowerment with the next generation of CSEA leaders.

She serves as liaison to the CSEA Statewide Minority Advisory Committee where she focuses on encouraging better connection with members and strengthening our union through engagement. When possible, she also worked as a CSEA Volunteer Member Organizer alongside CSEA Organizing, and has supporting efforts like the Lifespire, QSAC and the Guild for Exceptional Children in NYC.

Berkley proudly serves as a NYS Board Member of the Labor Religion Coalition (LRC) and believes wholeheartedly in its mission; “uniting the power of labor unions, faith leaders and the growing number of committed activist and community leaders from all parts of state, who are determined to make our common vision based on our deepest values (social, racial, and economic justice) a reality in New York State for everyone.”

She is married to Richard, her husband of 44 years and she has a twin brother, Dennis, who is shop steward for the U.S. Postal Service in California. She also has a younger brother, John, and older brother, Walter.

A longtime member of St. Paul Community Baptist Church, she is a member of the Ruby Collective, was a Sapphire Co-Chair for the Jewel Ministry (Women’s Ministry) and is involved with the Queens Power Kick-Off Assembly (Metro-Industrial Area Foundation.)

When asked why she is very active in the labor movement, Berkley said, “The labor movement created a strong middle class and continues to boost our economy. Despite attacks, we are stronger than ever, and we are thriving because we fight with our activism, perseverance and grit. I believe unions are central to protecting all working families and rewarding work again. The key to our future is looking ahead, mentoring and developing leadership that can carry CSEA into the future. Building our union power and maintaining our collective strength is essential to ensuring our children and grandchildren have the same opportunities through the labor movement that we currently have and there continues to be progress in lifting people out of poverty, restoring dignity and equality.”

Treasurer Bill Walsh

Elected as CSEA’s Statewide Treasurer in March 2016, Walsh brings an activist voice and long history of engaging members to his new office.

“Our union works best when all of our members amplify their voices and stand up for what’s right and just,” Walsh said. “Alone, we can only do so much, but together, we can really make meaningful change that helps us all.”

Within months of being honorably discharged from the U.S. Air Force following a four-year tour of duty, Walsh became a CSEA member when he was hired as a blue-collar laborer at the Town of Brookhaven in Suffolk County.

In 1982, he became a CSEA activist in his Town of Brookhaven Blue Collar Unit, immediately engaging his union brothers and sisters into our union by showing them what our union stands for and the value of our services for members.

In 1989, Walsh was elected president of the Town of Brookhaven Blue Collar Unit, serving in that office for 26 years. During his tenure, Walsh led the unit’s negotiating team to a first-ever, 10-year contract with a groundbreaking, eight-year extension to this contract.

Walsh was also elected as an officer of CSEA’s Suffolk County Local in 1989. In 2005, he became Local President and served in that office until his election as Statewide Treasurer. As a Local President, Walsh served as a mentor and support system for members in the more than 40 units within the local. He has also served as a Long Island Region vice president.

“Our members are the union,” Walsh said. “I strongly believe in helping our CSEA brothers and sisters become the best activists they can be so that they can form the future of our union.”

In addition to serving in leadership positions, Walsh has served on numerous CSEA statewide and Long Island Region committees, including chairing the union’s Statewide Legislative and Political Action Committee, serving on the CSEA Statewide Election Committee and Long Island Region Legislative and Political Action Committee.

As Statewide Treasurer, Walsh’s duties also include serving as officer liaison to CSEA’s Statewide Human Rights, Membership and Veterans committees.

In 1991, Walsh was honored to receive the CSEA Local Government Mission Achievement Award. He was also a graduate of the second CSEA Leadership Education And Development (LEAD) program in 2006.

“I’m really proud that I had the opportunity to be part of the LEAD program, which made a big difference in developing my own union skills so I can help others,” he said.

Walsh was born and raised in South Troy and graduated in 1976 from Troy High School. He served from 1977-1981 in the U.S. Air Force with an honorable discharge.

He has made his home on Long Island for the past 36 years with his wife Kathleen. They have three grown sons and one new grandson.