2023 NTEU Award Winners
These outstanding unin leaders are dedicated to the employees they represent, committed to NTEU, and lead by example every day. All of NTEU benefits from their passion and belief that frontline federal employees are critical to keeping our country moving forward.
Philip D. O’Rourke Award
Philip D. O’Rourke was a young and talented NTEU representative who extended NTEU’s reach by meeting with chapter leaders and members, dispensing wisdom, advice and assistance. Sadly, Philip was killed in a plane crash in 1967 when he was traveling on NTEU business. Since 1969, NTEU has been honoring his memory through the O’Rourke Awards.
Dana Brewer, Chapter 52, (IRS South Texas)
When a deranged terrorist flies a plane into a building specifically with the intent of killing your IRS colleagues, it is a crisis that demands leadership. Dana Brewer met that moment and countless others in her 31-year tenure as an NTEU member and leader of Chapter 52 in South Texas, which is why she is an ideal recipient of the Philip D. O’Rourke Memorial Award. The deadly 2010 attack in Austin shocked the entire workforce, and Dana’s fierce advocacy and compassion were exemplary throughout, working day and night on issues of recovery, alternate workspaces, and reconstructing employee records. In addition to her many chapter leadership roles, Dana’s influence is felt nationally as a founding member of the Taxpayer Advocate Service’s Guidance Advisory Board, various TAS and IRS bargaining teams, and testifying in multiple grievance hearings where she courageously stood up to management without fear. Dana also extended her strategic talents into helping employees win discrimination cases, some of which resulted in sizable damage awards. Astute and always prepared, Dana is a collaborative leader who knows when to cooperate with management and when to fight, all of which helped the chapter more than double its membership percentage in recent years. Just like Phillip O’Rourke, Dana’s energy and work ethic on behalf of NTEU is worthy of our recognition today.
Debora Mullikin, Chapter 73, (IRS Cincinnati Campus)
For an IRS and NTEU career that spans nearly three decades with a record of outstanding representational work, Debbie Mullikin is receiving the Philip O’Rourke Memorial Award. As president of Chapter 73 IRS Cincinnati Campus, Debbie is the total package of fierce advocate, compassionate coworker, effective spokeswoman and tough negotiator. Well before the pandemic, Debbie was pushing the boundaries of telework for Service Center employees, winning significant cases for employees to achieve a better work-life balance and establish telework as a viable option for even more employees. During the 2018-19 government shutdown, she gave her coworkers a strong voice in the debate through local and national media and on Capitol Hill, where her plain-spoken advocacy was desperately needed. There are plenty of stories of her standing up to the powerful when they were disrespectful to her members, and she can deploy an encyclopedic knowledge of the contract when necessary. Debbie oversaw the closure of a submission processing center and fought tooth and nail for every last employee to land a new IRS job if they wanted one. She is loyal to those who take on additional NTEU duties in the workplace, making sure they are well trained, empowered and never letting their IRS skills go rusty. Her total commitment to the union is contagious and makes her an excellent recruiter, often deploying the “United We Bargain, Divided We Beg” motto to illustrate the importance of high membership and collective strength. Chapter 73 under the leadership is always informed through the newsletter, The Force, and has become known for giving back to members, with many opportunities for camaraderie and fellowship outside the workplace.
Hiram Gonzalez, Chapter 188, (CBP Puerto Rico)
Hiram Gonzalez is one of those NTEU leaders who, in addition to all of his regular duties, has become an expert in crisis management.As President of Chapter 188 (CBP Puerto Rico), Hiram’s advocacy was essential in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, just one of the many challenges he has overcome that warrant special recognition with the Phillip O’Rourke Memorial Award. For months, the employees he represented had no power, air conditioning or refrigerators in their homes, and their free time was spent doing repairs, finding food and keeping their families safe. For too long, the conditions at work were equally perilous, with moldy walls, leaky ceilings and soggy floors, and Hiram was instrumental in drawing attention to the unsafe conditions, including securing air quality testing. A few years later, after an earthquake, Hiram believed management’s response was lacking so he coordinated the chapter’s relief work providing tents, gasoline food and water to whoever was in need. He clearly understands that our union is bigger than the job: it’s about family. When not battling natural disasters, Hiram is an outstanding CBP employee who is respected by the bargaining unit and management alike. Leveraging his deep knowledge of the contract, Hiram knows how to resolve issues before they escalate, but can also file – and win – grievances when necessary. Key to the chapter’s success and high membership rate is Hiram’s visibility and accessibility. He’s personable, approachable and smart, and believes deeply in the power of the union to affect positive change.
In recognition of Vince Connery, NTEU’s first national president, this award goes to those that have followed in Vince’s footsteps to build their own networks and help grow our union.
Lakhwinder “Lucky” Singh, Chapter 153 (CBP JFK)
Chapter 153 (CBP JFK) in New York is one of the strongest chapters in NTEU, with membership hovering around 95 percent and a positive, visible presence in the workplace. Such status is due in part to the 5-year presidency of Lakhwinder Singh. Lucky has been a member of NTEU since 2007, and he has capitalized on that experience to help build a well-trained team of stewards that is responsive and determined. By empowering and guiding them through grievances and other representational work, Lucky’s successful team-building – and the positive response that elicits from the bargaining unit -- makes him a worthy recipient of the Vincent Connery Memorial Membership Award. One of Lucky’s strengths is his ability to anticipate the needs of his members and bring their concerns to management before problems escalate. Having earned the respect of local managers, he meets frequently with port management to make sure members’ voices are heard. Lucky’s open-door policy for members illustrates his leadership style and builds chapter camaraderie, to the point that he often has more volunteers for chapter steward slots than vacancies. It is the sign of a healthy chapter that members seek out leadership positions, help organize charity or social events, support their colleagues and use their knowledge to pursue promotions. All CBP employees are fortunate to have Lucky as a permanent member of the 2023 Term Bargaining Team, where he will be a strong advocate for members across the country.
Jorge Llanos, Chapter 105 (CBP San Diego)
Chapter 105 CBP San Diego represents employees in an especially high-stress environment these days, with politicians and activists and reporters closely watching operations at the border. Navigating it all with skill and fortitude is Jorge Llanos, the steady hand that has led the chapter for the last decade. Jorge has done a masterful job at making sure frontline CBP employees are shielded from political turbulence on the job and treated with the respect they deserve. Jorge understands the power of relationship building for making positive change. He invests in the relationships that will benefit his members, and it has paid dividends by favorably resolving workplace issues before they escalate. That said, Jorge does not shrink from a fight and the chapter’s long list of victories in grievances, oral replies and at the bargaining table is impressive. His relentless focus on solid representational work is the chapter’s calling card, and positively impacts its membership growth and high membership percentage. Not only does he advise management to make sure they hear unvarnished input from frontline employees, he subscribes to that strategy himself and surrounds himself with a team that is empowered to speak their minds and take action. Throughout his career, Jorge has contributed to NTEU’s success in the CBP workplace in countless ways, which makes him supremely qualified to receive the Connery award this year.
Diane Lynne, Chapter 280, (EPA HQ)
When a single NTEU chapter triples its membership percentage, attention must be paid. And that is exactly what has happened since Diane Lynne first became an officer at Chapter 280 at EPA headquarters. In fact, Diane is now in her third term as president of this growing chapter, and she continues to find new ways to connect with members of the bargaining unit, especially during the pandemic. With a combination of in-person and virtual meetings and deploying a well-trained and motivated team of chapter leaders, Chapter 280 membership has been on a steady climb. Since the core of the Connery award is about membership growth, Diane’s communications work is instructive. In addition to her personal interactions with the bargaining unit, Chapter 280 deploys informative and timely mass emails to reach those she can’t see in person. During the chapter’s time-limited membership campaigns, she sets a playfully competitive tone as leaders scoop up piles of 1187s. Chapter 280 is one of those federal workspaces that is divided between NTEU and another federal sector union, and Diane is able to work closely with her union counterparts when their interests align and solidarity is called for. She’s a tough negotiator with management and has earned their respect over the years. Her coworkers know she is a bit of a night owl and has been known to take urgent phone calls from members at all hours. Diane’s patience, empathy, sense of humor and tenacity are part of her leadership resume and are a big reason Chapter 280 is receiving the Connery Award this year.
Gibson Jones, Chapter 98 (IRS Memphis Service Center)
Since Vince Connery is rightfully remembered for building NTEU’s national network, then Gibson Jones is rightfully being honored today for expanding it. After 10 years as president of Chapter 98 IRS Memphis Service Center, Gibson has made one of NTEU’s largest chapters even larger, in part because he develops solid working relationships with management, and then leverages those relationships on behalf of employees. His method not only solves workplace problems, but it also prevents them from developing in the first place, and when employees see that, NTEU’s stock goes up. Gibson was on the team that bargained the new 2022 National Agreement, contributing valuable insight into what would be most advantageous for Service Center employees. Maybe it’s Gibson’s military background, but he has a knack for collegiality when it’s warranted, a habit of providing care and support for those in need and standing his ground with management when necessary. His management of the chapter is especially transparent, right down to the whiteboard in his office that lays out chapter finances and membership data for members to see for themselves. Chapter 98’s steady growth is a product of Gibson’s grasp of the long game when it comes to unionizing, and he has the commitment and dedication to make it happen. Most of all, Gibson is a leader and a mentor who places a premium on educating employees on how to have a successful IRS career and helping them reach their goals.
Bob Tobias skillfully led NTEU from 1983 to 1999. Bob’s philosophy is that federal employees are the keeper of the public service flame, and their decision to dedicate their careers to the greater good is something that should be honored and revered. The Tobias Award recognizes chapter leaders who have embraced the collaborative approach to solving problems.
Cheryl Monroe, Chapter 230 (HHS Chicago)
Employees at the Department of Health and Human Services have had a particularly eventful few years of bargaining, and at the center of it all was Cheryl Monroe. Now in her 14th year as president of Chapter 230 HHS Chicago, Cheryl has first-hand experience with hostile agency management, and her record of success in overcoming it is just one of the many reasons she is this year’s recipient of the Robert M. Tobias Award. Cheryl’s grit and persistence throughout that ordeal is part of the reason that HHS employees are finally covered by a strong new contract.Her 25 years of membership in NTEU, most of it in chapter leadership, is a record of strong representational work and advocacy, including a victory to prevent FDA from closing a lab in Detroit during which she collaborated closely with members of the Michigan congressional delegation. Cheryl was an effective spokeswoman during the 2018-19 government shutdown, making sure Americans knew the devastating impact it was having on federal employees and their families. She consistently represented her coworkers and her union with dignity and class. Her common-sense leadership style suits her bargaining unit and with it, she easily attracts new members and new stewards who understand that growing the union gives them all more power. By encouraging communication and collaboration, Cheryl has become a role model for employees. With her courage and character, she stands up to management when confrontation is called for, and knows how to use every tool at NTEU’s disposal to make sure employees are treated with dignity and respect.
Kelley Medal of Honor
The Colleen Kelley Medal honors a chapter president who carries on Collen’s legacy of building and nurturing relationships that benefit our union and all federal employees. Colleen’s guiding principles still resonate to this day: growth, communication, elections and respect for federal workers.
David Carrone, Chapter 6, (IRS Arkansas and Louisana)
David Carrone’s belief in the power of communication, the strong working relationships he’s built, and his steadfast integrity make him a fantastic choice for the Colleen M. Kelley Medal of Honor. His three decades of union experience, including 18 years as chapter president, shines through in everything he does to help the members of IRS Chapter 6 in Arkansas and Louisiana. When the devastation of Hurricane Katrina demanded a strong union chapter step up and secure accommodations and assistance for members across the region, David excelled in his role. Time and again David has displayed a fierce loyalty for his colleagues, especially when confronting management and calling them to account for their actions. He has delivered more than one master class on the responsibilities and obligations of NTEU to ensure employees are treated with dignity and respect, up to and including forcing problematic managers to be removed. In return, union members trust and respect David, which is a magnet for membership growth. A remarkable amount of David’s work is done quietly behind the scenes and credit shared is shared with his team, which is the hallmark of a confident leader. David’s leadership style was shaped by the leadership of Colleen Kelley, and it is only fitting that David be recognized for his dedication by receiving this award.