Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, CSEA members have continued to deliver essential services in their communities, often at great risk to their own health.

At the union’s 111th Annual Delegates Meeting, guest speakers honored CSEA members for their roles in responding to the pandemic as well as their activism in ensuring the enactment of the American Rescue Plan.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer addresses members at the virtual ADM.

One of those speakers, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, helped lead the way to passing the legislation, which pumped more than $12 billion in New York state and saved many public services.

“Many of you have been on the front lines in this crisis, in law enforcement, health care, public works, emergency service and other positions,” Schumer said. “You oftentimes risked your lives to help the rest of us, so thank you for your service and I’m indebted to you.”

CSEA President Mary E. Sullivan, in turn, expressed her gratitude to Schumer.

“I want to thank [Senator Schumer] for his decades of friendship to CSEA and especially recognize the vital service he provided us at our time of need,” Sullivan said. “Over the next years, let us not forget who was there for us when we needed his leadership.”

Sullivan noted that without Schumer’s efforts, public services could have been decimated by the pandemic.

“Whether you work for the state, a local government, a school district or in the private sector, the outlook for 2021 looked bleak as the pandemic wreaked havoc on our state’s economy,” Sullivan said. “[Sen. Schumer’s] dogged efforts to ensure the passage of the American Rescue Plan were the lifeline New York needed to weather the COVID storm. Thanks to his leadership, frontline workers got the support they needed to continue essential services and set our state on a path to recovery from this tragedy.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul also gave CSEA members strong support.


“CSEA members stood on the front lines at grave personal risk to themselves and their families for over a year and a half,” Hochul said. “You kept our state up and running and you kept our most vulnerable safe. You protect the public health of all New Yorkers every single day. On behalf of the 20 million people of our state, I want to thank you for never giving up and being there for us when we needed you the most.”

CSEA members were also praised by labor leaders.

AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler speaks to members at the ADM.

Newly elected AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler, in her address to our union, thanked CSEA members for their response during the pandemic. “You risked your lives,” she said. “You kept vital services running … you are, were and always will be essential and you continue to serve and strengthen communities across the Empire State.”

She added that despite many efforts by union members, there is still work to do to fully recover from the pandemic, as about 1.8 million women were sidelined from the workforce amid COVID to care for loved ones. Many of these women remain out of work or in poorly-paid positions.

AFSCME International President Lee Saunders, in his address, credited CSEA and AFSCME members for the passage of the American Rescue Plan, noting that union members contacted members of Congress more than 150,000 times to push for federal pandemic relief.

“[The American Rescue Plan] happened because of our activism; because of our leadership,” Saunders said. “We raised our voices and raised hell.”

— Janice Gavin


About Author

Janice Gavin

Janice Gavin is the editor of The Work Force and CSEA’s special interest publications. A graduate of SUNY Plattsburgh and Syracuse University, Gavin has been a journalist and public relations professional for more than 20 years. She worked as a newspaper reporter and bureau chief at the Plattsburgh Press-Republican, where she was honored with Associated Press and New York Newspaper Publishers Association awards. Gavin joined CSEA as a communications specialist in the union's Southern Region in 2000. In 2004, she became The Work Force's associate editor, a position she held until becoming the publication's editor in 2017. Growing up in a union household, she is dedicated to improving workers’ lives through telling their stories.

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