Labor leader Maria Castaneda, 2 others honored in immigration gala

She is the highest ranking Asian American woman labor leader in the U.S. Photos: NYIC

She is the highest ranking Asian American woman labor leader in the U.S. Photos: NYIC

About 300 individuals representing community organizations, labor groups, faith organizations, businesses, and government gathered on June 2 to celebrate the accomplishments of the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) at its 2015 Gala.

The annual gala held at the Capitale on the Lower East Side, honored organizations and key leaders who have contributed tremendously to improving the livelihoods of immigrant communities. Among the awardees were Central American Refugee Center or CARECEN; Dr. Ram Raju, president and CEO of New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation; and Filipino American Maria Castaneda, secretary-treasurer of 1199SEIU Healthcare Workers East and the highest ranking Asian American woman labor leader in the U.S.

Upon accepting the award, Castaneda, said, “I am honored to be recognized by the New York Immigration Coalition, whose work bringing a broad range of stakeholders to the table to advance immigrant rights is critical. 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East is a proud member of the Coalition. With over 400,000 members, many of whom are immigrants, in New York State, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Florida, Maryland and the District of Columbia, we are the largest local union in the world. In our work to improve and expand quality patient care, and protect the lives of our members and their families, immigrant rights is at the forefront of our mission. I accept this award knowing that together we will continue to fight for immigrant rights because it will improve our economy and raise standards for all working people.”

According to the 1199 website, the Philippine-born Castaneda has long been involved in student and community organizing, and became an advocate for trade union and human rights.

“When she moved to New York in 1984, she became a volunteer community organizer, assisting Filipinos in their immigration issues, and promoting Philippine cultural heritage.

“She came to work for 1199 in July 1985 as an organizer in the RN Division, a position she filled for 12 years. In 1998, Maria was elected 1199SEIU VP of the Montefiore network, representing 5,300 members.

“In 2005, she became executive vice president of Health Systems 6, representing the members in the Continuum Network (Beth Israel Medical Center Petrie and Kings Highway division, Roosevelt Hospital, Long Island College Hospital and St. Luke’s Hospital), Montefiore Network and Maimonedes and Lutheran Medical Center. In this capacity, Maria became a leader in developing and effective team Officers, Organizers/Contract Administrators and Delegates. Together with the team, she led Joint Labor and management initiatives that help promote training and upgrading programs for thousands of members; increase members’ voice and input in the workplace; strengthen union committees to help enforce the contract and employment security; promote health, safety and wellness programs; and processes to promote quality care for patients and worker job satisfaction.”

The first NYIC award was presented to the Central American Refugee Center by Sandra Dunn, program director at Long Island’s Hagedorn Foundation. CARECEN was honored as the “Member of the Year” for its leadership in supporting recently arrived Central American children in Long Island. With over 50,000 unaccompanied minors fleeing violence from parts of Central America last year, CARECEN took charge to support the legal and social needs of thousands of young people who resettled on Long Island.

Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, deputy mayor of NYC for Health and Human Services presented the second award to Dr. Ram Raju, president and CEO of New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) for his distinguished career as the head of the largest municipal healthcare system in the nation with 11 hospitals and nearly 100 care providers. Under Raju’s leadership, HHC has been working to expand access, increase efficiency, and improve the experiences of 1.4 million patients that HHC cares for every year.

The final award of the night was presented by executive vice president of 1199SEIU and NYIC board member Estela Vasquez, to Maria Castaneda, secretary-treasurer of 1199SEIU Healthcare Workers East for her role as a driving force for immigrant and workers rights through her union.

At the Capitale on Gala night

At the Capitale on Gala night

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