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New York member wins labor award, is invited to attend governor’s inauguration

Photo credit: DenisTangneyJr/Getty Images
New York member wins labor award, is invited to attend governor’s inauguration
By AFSCME Council 66 ·
Tags: Victories
New York member wins labor award, is invited to attend governor’s inauguration
Member-provided photo. Credit: Joe Anderson.

AFSCME congratulates Joe Anderson, president of AFSCME Local 1037a (Council 66), who recently won a labor award and has been invited to attend New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s inauguration next month.

His journey from childhood to becoming the president of the local that represents workers for the City of Schenectady has not been an easy one. He has experienced struggle and loss, yet, through it all he chooses to live a life filled with faith, gratitude and a fighting spirit. Anderson believes that no matter where you come from or what has happened to you, “you can always be somebody.”

Anderson had a tough childhood. He was surrounded by people who made bad choices and found himself on the wrong path in life. He spent his 16th birthday in jail. A few years later, he found himself in court again. Thankfully, he ended up in front a judge who looked into his case and saw that Anderson could be somebody.

“Judge Versaci gave me a second chance and changed my whole life,” he said.

Since then, Anderson has spent his life paying back that act of mercy. Before joining the City of Schenectady, he worked at the Boys and Girls Club to be a role model to struggling young people. He also volunteered with Pop Warner Football.

Then, nine years ago, he was able to secure a position with the City of Schenectady as a street sweeper. He proudly talks about the work his members perform from water, sanitation, street and parks maintenance.

“Our jobs keep the city running,” he said.

His children also love seeing their dad driving his street sweeper.

Tragically two years ago, Anderson lost his 15-year old daughter to diabetes. He understandably struggled and found himself in a dark place. His wife Kayla was his support system and reminded him that he had people who loved and needed him. He realized during that time that, even when you are in your darkest place and have experienced your greatest loss, “there is still a spark inside you.”

Through his grief, his union leadership role provided him with something important to contribute to members. During the last round of negotiations, Anderson was elected president of the union. His “persistent” style helped secure an unprecedented labor agreement with substantial pay increases for his members. Anderson made sure that his members, who have some of the toughest jobs in the public sector and worked every day during the COVID-19 pandemic, had a living wage.

Because of his tireless advocacy for his members and continued fight for economic justice, Anderson was recently awarded the 2022 John F. Kennedy Walter P. Reuther Labor Leadership Award by the Schenectady Democratic Committee.  

As Anderson gave his emotional acceptance speech, he looked onto a cheering audience filled with elected officials, including Schenectady’s own Antonio Delgado, New York’s lieutenant governor, and other prominent community leaders. One of those leaders was Judge Vincent Versaci – the same judge who saw the potential in him years ago.

Anderson lets his faith guide his life.

“If I want to see my daughter again I have to do the right things,” he said.

And his joy comes from knowing that “I’m helping 200 union families.”

His life’s work now is to ensure that “union members, whether new seasonal employees or 30-year employees, know they are somebody indispensable, too.”

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