CSEA President Danny Donohue is one of the most influential and well-respected leaders in the American labor movement. He has truly helped CSEA earn its reputation as New York’s leading union.
Under Donohue’s leadership, CSEA has been at the forefront of many public policy issues, including fair and responsible budgets, affordable prescription drug coverage, preserving quality health care and improving public education.
CSEA is the largest affiliate of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees. The union has grown stronger under Donohue’s presidency, achieving unprecedented organizing success in the public and private sectors and today maintains a membership nearly 300,000 strong. Donohue has also significantly strengthened the union’s role and influence in both the AFL-CIO and AFSCME, where he serves with distinction as an International Vice President.
In tough economic times, Donohue continues to fight for fairness for middle class New Yorkers, while protecting public services and the benefits workers have fought so hard to get. CSEA negotiates contracts on behalf of members in more than 1,100 bargaining units. The union’s most recent contracts, negotiated in a challenging fiscal environment, have kept union members working while protecting rights and benefits.
With Donohue at the helm, CSEA has led the nation in fighting for safe and healthy workplaces. CSEA was instrumental in securing the first public worker protection law in the nation and has consistently strengthened it with additional worker protections including guidelines for tuberculosis, rabies and Lyme disease, as well as other focused regulations such as those regarding safe refuse handling. Following the 1992 murder of four CSEA members working at the Schuyler County Department of Social Services by a disgruntled client, Donohue helped lead a decade-long, hands-on fight for tougher workplace security protections resulting in the approval of New York’s historic Worksite Security Act. Most recently, the union played a key role in helping to secure safe patient handling legislation that will protect workers and patients from injuries related to lifting and moving and has the potential to save millions of dollars in Workers’ Compensation costs.
Born in Brooklyn, Donohue began his career in public service as an attendant at Central Islip Psychiatric Center. He burst into CSEA’s leadership ranks in 1975 when he won a write-in campaign to become local president there. He became increasingly active in CSEA at region and statewide levels, including becoming Long Island Region President at a very young age.
Donohue was the first Long Islander elected to a CSEA statewide office when he won a five-way race for executive vice president in 1988. In 1994, he became CSEA’s 23rd statewide president.
Donohue’s down to earth personality is his greatest asset, allowing him to connect with both rank and file union members and elected officials. Expanding CSEA’s outreach and community presence has been a hallmark of his leadership.
“It’s important for us to build alliances,” he says. “It extends our reach and gives us a wider perspective.”
Donohue has long been active in the State Employees Federated Appeal and has helped to raise millions of dollars for United Way and other charities. Under his leadership, CSEA was recognized as the 1999 recipient of the Governor’s Community Service Award.
Donohue serves on the Board of the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans and has received numerous awards and honors over the years, including the New York State Martin Luther King Institute’s Leadership Award, Irish Northern Aid’s James P. Connelly Award and the NYCOSH (New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health) Award. The Irish-American Labor Coalition honored him for his work toward peace in Northern Ireland.
“There is no force in New York more powerful than CSEA when we work together,” Donohue said. “But no CSEA member should take anything for granted. We have to communicate and support each other. There is a responsibility on the part of leaders to provide information, create understanding and build solidarity, but there is also a responsibility on the part of each individual member to stay informed and involved. No one should expect things will just get better unless you are willing to participate.”