EmblemHealth and LaborPress Presents: Heroes of Labor 2020 – COVID-19 Edition

Liberty Island overlooking Manhattan Skyline on a bright summer day

EmblemHealth and LaborPress are honored to present the 9th Annual Heroes of Labor Awards to individuals who go beyond the call of duty. In partnership with LaborPress, EmblemHealth will host a special series of events honoring heroes who helped lead, protect, rebuild and care for New York during the COVID-19 pandemic. We salute the unions who give their time and energy in an extraordinary manner to advocate for others, serve their community with compassion, strength of character, and bravery.

In partnership with Food Merchants, we have prepared a menu for you to enjoy at home during our event. Each recipe is under 10 steps, and the recommended ingredients are all optional. The drink options are intended for consumption by those 21 and older. Drink responsibly. If you are interested in working with Food Merchants for your future events, please visit foodmerchantscatering.com


Register below today.


Honoring our union partners

Oren Barzilay,
Local 2507, DC 37
Oren Barzilay is the President of Local 2507, Uniformed EMTs, Paramedics, and Fire Inspectors FDNY. The union has more than 4,000 members. He attended Nassau County community college in 1991 - 92, majoring in Criminal Justice. Barzilay joined the Forest Hills volunteer ambulance corps at the age of 16 while in high school. He enrolled in an EMT class at the age of 17, while still attending high school. While serving the community for a few years, Barzilay knew that EMS was his calling. He joined NYC EMS in 1995. He was initially assigned to Battalion 16 in Harlem. EMS later merged with the FDNY in 1997. In 1999 he got involved with his union, by attending many union meetings, and he soon found himself becoming a station representative at emergency medical dispatch. Through the years of helping and being heavily engaged with the members of the union, Barzilay was elected to hold numerous roles to lead the men and women of FDNY EMS, which ultimately led Barzilay to his current position of President.

Faye Smyth,
Uniformed Fire Alarm Dispatchers Benevolent Association
Faye Smyth is the president of the 202-person-strong Uniformed Fire Alarm Dispatchers Benevolent Association (UFADBA) — the first woman to ever hold the post. The organization has two call centers – one in the Bronx, one in Brooklyn — and they are always open.

“We never close,” says Smyth.
Smyth has been a public servant her entire career. She began at the NYPD in 1989, eventually moving over to the FDNY in 1997. She has received commendations from both the Police and Fire departments for her work as an emergency dispatcher. One that stands out above all others is her efforts during September 11, 2001.

Smyth has moved up through the ranks of the Uniformed Fire Alarm Dispatchers Benevolent Association and is now in her 3rd term as president.

Through Smyth’s leadership, UFADBA won the very tough fight to reverse the Bloomberg catastrophe called Universal Call Taker. Smyth, along with her union board, were able to gain their own uniform bargaining certificate for labor negotiations. As president, she made sure that her members acquired their Class A dress uniforms. UFADBA members were granted their own Education Day, as well as an annual Recognition Day to honor members who have performed extraordinarily during the previous year. UFADBA members who have (unfortunately) passed away are afforded the assistance of the Ceremonial unit. Smyth her members also acquired membership in the International Association of Firefighters. Their local is #4959. Membership had to be sponsored by both local firefighter and fire officer’s unions.

Vincent Variale,
Local 3621, DC 37
Vincent Variale is president of the Uniformed EMS Officers Union Local 3621. First elected president of the local in 2009, he is currently serving his fourth term. He served as Sgt.-at-Arms for District Council 37 until his election to serve on the DC 37 Executive Board January 2019. A proactive leader, Variale has been at the forefront determined to receive fair and equitable pay for his members and other first responders. He led a long-term campaign pushing for promotional exams for EMS Officers all the way up to the rank of Division Chief, culminating in the passage of the Civil Service Exam Bill into law this past January. Variale is steadfast in fighting for all members affected by the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks. That included a victory in getting unlimited sick leave for EMS and other union members who responded to the attacks and worked in Ground Zero in the aftermath.
The union has 550 members. So far, eight in total have died from either COVID-19 or COVID-19-related stress. As far as other impacts go, Variale says that the Mayor threatened lay-offs, but that a deal has been made to suspend lay-offs until July of next year, or “maybe June 2022.”
But the threat had been made, and Variale says, “Our union thinks, it’s appalling, many members are working with the risks of COVID-19. You can imagine what that does to the morale of people doing their jobs. Do you lay-off fire fighters when they need to extinguish a fire?”

Andy Ansbro,
UFA IAFF Local 94
The Uniformed Firefighters Association Local 94 is an 8500-member strong union on the front lines. Firefighters, Fire Marshals, Marine Engineers, Marine Pilots, and Marine Wipers comprise its membership and are led by UFA President Andy Ansbro. Ansbro is a former member of the NYPD who went on to join the ranks of the FDNY in 2001. He began attending UFA Rallies when former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani attempted to shut Firefighters out of Ground Zero. Since then, he’s been active in scores of UFA actions, including the annual Lobby Day event in Albany, as well as the successful fight to pass the Zadroga Bill.

Jake Lemonda,
UFOA IAFF Local 854
FDNY Battalion Chief James “Jake” Lemonda is the president of Local 854 of the International Association of Fire Fighters and has held the post since 2014. He was unanimously re-elected as the president at its annual reorganization meeting on September 1st. In 1986, Lemonda joined the FDNY and was assigned to Engine 92 in the Bronx. Lemonda says Engine 92 was one of the busiest firehouses in the city and had a big influence on him. “I got to learn my trade alongside some great firefighters and exceptional fire officers, which influenced my career. I tried to emulate so many of them in so many ways,” he says. Lemonda’s involvement with the union also began at Engine 92. Lemonda was promoted to Lieutenant in 1994, and assigned to Division 11. Subsequently, he transferred to Engine 234 in Brooklyn. Shortly after the events of September 11, 2001, he was promoted to Captain. In 2005, he was promoted to Battalion Chief and assigned to Battalion 11 in Harlem. In 2009, he was elected to the Fire Officer’s Association Executive Board. Today he is the president of Local 854 of the International Association of Fire Fighters and has held the post since 2014.