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Susan M. Reverby

After a lifetime of labor militancy and commitment, Lillian Davis Roberts at seventy-two was not meant for retirement, volunteer work, and trips to Atlantic City with her friends. Roberts was called when her New York union, District Council (DC) 37 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), was coming out of receivership after corruption and vote fraud had rocked the union’s highest levels. In 2000, she became a consultant to the union. On 26 February 2002 she was elected the union’s executive director.

Such leadership was not new for Roberts. More than twenty years earlier, on 9 January 1981, New York governor Hugh Carey had proclaimed Lillian Roberts Day in tribute to the labor leader s importance to the political and economic struggles of working people Then DC 37 s associate director Roberts had been at the forefront of labor battles for decades ...