Former Queens Borough President Melinda Katz was inaugurated on Monday and became the first woman to assume the role of district attorney in Queens. As she accepted the praise for the historic moment she also acknowledged the labor unions that supported her campaign efforts for the role.
During her speech, Katz recognized New York Hotel Trades Council, one of the first unions to support her during last year’s campaign for the District Attorney’s office, which was a seven-way race.
“Thank you to the many unions that help make the city run and help build this city everyday, and to [President] Peter Ward who supported me at HTC,” said Katz.
Katz also recognized the late president of 32BJ SEIU, one of the largest unions in the country that represents service workers.
“32BJ we miss Hector [Figueroa] and we think of him everyday and we know we have a great leader in Kyle Bragg,” said Katz.
Figueroa passed away from a heart attack in July 2019 after leading 32BJ SEIU for nearly seven years and helped to grow the union to 163,000-member strong. Bragg the union’s former secretary-treasurer later replaced the late president.
However, two months before his passing Figueroa and 32BJ endorsed Katz for the district attorney role.
“Her plan to protect Queens residents from wage theft, unsafe workplaces, and hostile work environments will make New York a better, safer place for working families,” said Figueroa. ” Throughout her extensive career in public service, Melinda Katz has always stood up to protect the rights and safety of the most vulnerable in our community.”
In February 2019, Katz outlined a guideline for her proposed Worker Protection Bureau, which would have mandatory investigations for workplace injuries, prosecute workplace violations, elevate wage theft prosecutions and protect immigrant workers in a county that is nearly 50 percent foreign-born.
“The current Economic Crimes Bureau in the Queens DA’s office states that its traditional role is protecting employers from embezzlement by employees,” said then candidate Katz. “I believe there must be resources also devoted to addressing the extensive theft in the opposite direction: employers stealing wages from workers. New York’s workers lose over a billion dollars a year due to wage theft.”
Katz also received endorsements from the United Federation of Teachers, District Council 37, TWU Local 100 and a dozen other unions.
“To all the unions thank you,” said Katz. “There will always be respect for the work you do.”
Katz just barely edged out upstart political challenger Tiffany Cabán in last year’s Democratic primary.