New York State United Teachers today paid tribute to American Federation of Teachers President Edward J. McElroy and Secretary-Treasurer Nat LaCour, who announced their plans to retire from leading the 1.4-million-member union, which is a national affiliate of NYSUT.
The announcement came at a meeting of the AFT Executive Council, where NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi led NYSUT officers in saluting the two AFT leaders for their exemplary service and visionary leadership.
"The members of New York State United Teachers and the AFT have been blessed with great leaders and role models in Ed McElroy and Nat LaCour, and I am honored to call them both friends," Iannuzzi said. "Under Ed's presidency, AFT has continued the excellent leadership of Al Shanker and Sandy Feldman. I am confident that style of visionary leadership will continue well into the future."
McElroy and LaCour will continue to serve in their current roles until the July 2008 AFT national convention in Chicago, where more than 2,000 delegates will select their successors.
"Change is always good if you think about it and do it in the right way," McElroy told the AFT Executive Council. "And it is the right time for change."
He paid tribute to LaCour for his steadfast leadership, saying, "Nat has been an absolutely terrific partner." He also thanked AFT Executive Vice President Antonia Cortese, who previously was a NYSUT vice president, saying, "I have been so fortunate to have Toni as a member of my team."
McElroy credited the AFT leaders from across the country for their role in the union's success and thanked them for "the confidence and trust you've placed in me."
As he has done throughout his career as a labor leader, McElroy stressed the importance of organizing, recalling his early days of talking about the need for a union over coffee and doughnuts with small groups of teachers.
Nat LaCour also spoke warmly of the shared bonds with leaders from across the country and his fellow AFT officers. "This great union will continue to go forward," he said, "thanks to all of you."
An e-mail announcement from McElroy follows:
FROM: President Edward J. McElroy
TO: AFT Membership
I want to let you know that AFT secretary-treasurer Nat LaCour and I plan to retire at the AFT convention this coming July. Nat and I shared our plans today with the AFT executive council at our regularly scheduled meeting.
It has been my privilege to lead this great union and to work with so many of you to advance our mission. I am proud of the accomplishments we have achieved, which include driving member activism and political involvement deep into the union, helping shape crucial policies affecting our members and those they serve, enhancing capacity in our state and local affiliates, strengthening financial accountability at every level of the union, planning for and adapting to the changing landscape in which we operate, and structuring and supporting each AFT constituency group to give them equal standing in our union.
The customary elections process described in the AFT bylaws and constitution will be carried out at our July convention, where delegates will elect the AFT officers and 39 vice presidents. AFT executive vice president Antonia Cortese will stand for re-election. I am confident that the AFT will continue to grow in strength and numbers, and will remain at the forefront of the fight to improve the lives of all Americans.
I want to say a few words about Nat LaCour, who, as I mentioned, also plans to retire this summer. Nat was an incredibly effective president of the United Teachers of New Orleans, and has been equally indispensable as an AFT national officer. Nat's counsel and capabilities have benefited our union more than I can say.
As you know well, union work is more than a job--we all are part of a movement. Even though union work often is difficult, time-consuming and exhausting, you do it. Our union is strong because of efforts like yours. I know Nat joins me in thanking you and in wishing you--and our wonderful union--the very best.
Edward J. McElroy