Bill de Blasio picks two union leaders to help with transition

Alvarez and Gresham. ()
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The head of the city's powerful healthcare workers union - the biggest union to endorse mayor-elect Bill de Blasio during the Democratic primary - has been appointed to de Blasio's transition team.

George Gresham, president of 1199SEIU Healthcare Workers East and Vincent Alvarez, president of the NY Central Labor Council were among the list of names announced this week as part of the team tasked to help de Blasio appoint commissioners and other city officials.

Gresham backed de Blasio early in the race, when his poll numbers were less than impressive. The gamble paid off and the union got its mayor.

"This is a nod to all the key players that played a role in getting (de Blasio) elected," said a union source. Having Gresham on the transition team "means that we will have a voice in who the mayor chooses for key positions in the healthcare field," the source said. "There will be huge changes in the way healthcare is delivered and most of our members work in the city's big hospitals so we have a stake in this."

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Gresham, who joined the union in 1975 when he was 20 years old and worked in the housekeeping department at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, has held many union positions, including executive vice president for collective bargaining and executive vice president. Through union training and funding he studied and became an MRI technologist.

A spokesman for 1199SEIU said Gresham isn't doing interviews about his role in the transition right now.

Alvarez, who tried unsuccessfully to unite the city's unions around one candidate during the primary, began his union work when he started working as an electrician repairing street lights with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Local 3.

Alvarez is the first full-time elected president of the NY Central Labor Council, and is also the organization's first Latino president. Alvarez joined the NY Central Labor Council in 2007 and became president in 2011.

Alvarez did not return a request for comment for this story.

 

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