ROI Influencers: Union Leaders — Non-Building Trades

Wayne Blanchard
New Jersey State Troopers Fraternal Association

Heads the STFA, the recognized bargaining unit for all rank-and-file New Jersey state troopers below the rank of sergeant. The STFA is the largest New Jersey State Police association, with over 1,800 active members.

Laurel Brennan
New Jersey State AFL-CIO

Longtime member of leadership at state AFL-CIO (she was elected secretary-treasurer in 1997) is first woman to serve in this office in state (one of only seven nationally). She is responsible for the organizational budget and other financial obligations.

Kevin Brown
Vice president & state director
32BJ Service Employees International Union

The 175,000 members of the chapter of the SEIU is impressive and important — the impact comes when you consider the wide variety of sectors and populations that it serves. Brown has been a key leader/driver in raising minimum wage for service workers throughout the state.

Patricia Campos-Medina
Executive director
Worker Institute @ILR Cornell

She is a researcher and labor educator focusing on the intersection of race, immigration status and workers’ rights. At the Worker Institute, she leads research, policy innovation and training to advance worker justice, collective bargaining rights and the interest of workers in today’s economy and society.

Donna Chiera
American Federation of Teachers-N.J.

Chiera not only is president of the AFT-NJ, leading the 30,000-member education union federation, she serves as a vice president for the national organization.

Veronica Cobb
President & business agent
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 819

A more than 25-year employee of New Jersey Transit, she has been the head of ATU Local 819, one of its most important unions, since 2020 — the first Black woman to serve in this role.

Pat Colligan
New Jersey Policemen’s Benevolent Association

Leader of one of the state’s most important police unions, Colligan has been at the forefront of the effort to fight back against “defund the police”-type measures.

Judy Danella
USW – Health Care Workers Council Local 4-200

The leader of the nurses union at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick that is part of the United Steel Workers since 2015. She has been a part of a half-dozen negotiations — including one this summer that led to a strike.

Donna DeCaprio
Unite Here! Local 54

She became the first female leader of this powerful union of casino workers earlier this year, but her impact has been great for years. In previous role as financial secretary-treasurer, she dramatically improved union’s financial stability through COVID and help bring historic wage increases last summer.

Ed Donnelly
New Jersey Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association

In his fourth term as leader of union that represents more than 5,000 firefighters, EMTs and dispatchers.

Fran Ehret
N.J. state director
Communication Workers of America

In 2021, she took over as state director for the CWA, one of the state’s most powerful public sector unions, but she has a lifetime of union influence. She served as a national staff representative at CWA since 2013. Prior to that, she was president of the Turnpike Workers Union, IFPTE Local 194.

Sam Ferraino
United Food & Commercial Workers Local 360

He leads the powerful UFCW Local 360 — a state leader in grocery store workers and the cannabis industry, among other areas. Ferraino also is president of the influential N.J. Central Labor Council. He was recently appointed to the Woodbury city council, too.

Lynne Fox
International president
Workers United

She’s based in Philadelphia, but her impact in New Jersey already is being felt, as she is helping to organize Starbucks employees across the state. Workers United represents more than 86,000 members in U.S. and Canada.

Hugh Giordano
Director of organizing
United Food & Commercial Workers Local 360

He’s one of the first calls when cannabis workers are considering creating a union — or have an issue after they do. As the director of organizing for the UFCW Local 360, his impact on the sector cannot be overstated.

Becky Givan; Catherine Monteleone; Amy Higer
President; President; President
Rutgers AAUP-AFT; AAUP-BHSNJ; Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union

Led weeklong strike of Rutgers teachers that drew statewide attention and brought across-the-board raises (at least 14%) to full-time faculty, 44% per-credit increases (and more job security) for part-time lecturers and 28% increases for post-docs.

Barbara Hildner; William Calathes
President; Chief negotiator
American Federation of Teachers Local 1839

The financial mess at New Jersey City University was not going to be fixed without substantial input and effort by the unions connected to the AFT. Hildner and Calathes worked with NJCU officials to come up with a plan that was fair to the unions (and the students), helping set the school on the road to recovery.

John O’Krinsky; Mike Stas
President; President
International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 632; IATSE Local 21

Want to see a show? Their two IATSE locals guide the union workers at MetLife Stadium, Prudential Center, New Jersey Performing Arts Center and a host of other prominent venues throughout the state. O’Krinsky succeeds longtime Local 632 leader Kevin O’Brien, who serves as president emeritus. Potential opportunities to grow at Fort Monmouth and Bayonne are immense.

Rich Maroko
N.Y./N.J. Hotel and Gaming Workers Union

He has a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania and has fought cases in state/federal courts and before the National Labor Relations Board, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Division of Human Rights. In addition, he has led a massive mobilization and activation of union workers in New Jersey in the past decade.

Sean Spiller
New Jersey Education Association

A high school science teacher in the Wayne public schools, Spiller is president of the NJEA, one of the most influential and impactful teachers unions in the country.

Brian String
United Food & Commercial Workers Local 152

String has been an influential leader for three decades, becoming president of UFCW Local 1538 in 1997 — and then continuing in that role when that local merged with 152 in 2006. String, who joined the union at age 14, is the son of a prominent labor leader.

Garth Thompson
MEC chair
United – Air Line Pilots Association

To be clear, he’s based in Denver — but his impact on United Airlines flights out of Newark Liberty International Airport (and all the business travelers who use them) became clear in the most recent contract talks, as he kept the planes in the air while helping the pilots earn raises.

Todd Vachon
Rutgers’ Labor Education Action Research Network

An assistant professor in the Department of Labor Studies and Employment Relations at Rutgers, he is one of the top thought leaders in the state on union issues. He oversees the school’s labor education programs held for workers, unions and other organizations.

Harvey Whille
United Food & Commercial Workers Local 1262

The UFCW Local 1262, which runs from Ocean County to Hudson Valley, represents more than 22,000 workers at ShopRite, Stop & Shop, Foodtown and other stores.

Debbie White
Health Professionals and Allied Employees

A registered nurse at Virtua Memorial Hospital for more than 25 years, she was involved in the initial organizing of HPAE Local 5105 in 1996, became a union rep and eventually president before joining the state executive chairman — eventually elevating to the top role.

Charles Wowkanech
New Jersey State AFL-CIO

Leader of an organization that unites the voices of more than 1 million union members across the state in pursuit of social and economic justice for all workers.

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