BUFFALO, N.Y. April 27, 2012 - Eadie Shanker - whose involvement in organized labor spans more than 50 years and whose late husband, Albert, was the legendary education labor organizer - was honored by New York State United Teachers with the union's most prestigious award at its 40th annual Representative Assembly in Buffalo.
Shanker received the 2012 "Not for Ourselves Alone:" The Sandy Feldman Outstanding Leadership Award, which recognizes the contributions women have made to the education union movement. The award is named after the late tenacious and outspoken labor leader who - like Albert Shanker - served as president of both the United Federation of Teachers and American Federation of Teachers.
As an active union member at Junior High School 126 in Queens during the late 1950s, the then-Eadie Gerber attended a speech given by Albert Shanker. And though she would eventually go on to marry Shanker and raise a family, Eadie Shanker did not merely live in the shadow of her renowned husband. In fact, she would go on to make her own impact on both education and labor.
"Eadie was there at the beginning, playing an instrumental role in helping to launch the education union movement," said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. "While her commitment to labor, the education profession and social justice is her legacy, it also should never be forgotten that she played an integral part in helping to lay the foundation on which our union was built."
In the early 1960s, Eadie served as a delegate, helping to create the United Federation of Teachers. And during that early stage in the union's existence, she worked out of her home until money was available to hire staff. Later that decade, she helped the Putnam Valley PTA fight local school board elections as part of an effort to prevent the underfunding of schools.
A firm believer in the power of education and the opportunity it presents, Eadie Shanker in 1978 helped to establish a Basic Literacy and GED program for adult union members who worked in New York City agencies. She also worked to create the City University of New York's Collaborative Programs for High School Dropout Prevention, and directed CUNY's High School-College Student Mentoring Program.
Aside from her membership in the UFT, Shanker also has been a member of the Teachers' Guild, Teamsters Local 237, and the Professional Staff Congress/City University of New York.
Through her vast volunteer work, Eadie Shanker has also left her mark on the New York City community. She has been active in the New York City Park Advocates' "Save Union Square" campaign, which has succeeded in saving large areas of park space for children. And, she has been instrumental in raising funds for the 112-year-old People's Symphony Concerts, which provide low-cost performances for students, teachers and workers who cannot afford entertainment at high-priced venues.
"Eadie has dedicated her life to the education labor movement, and her long history of work to improve the lives of union members, students and those in her community makes her the ideal leader to receive this honor," said NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira. "Like Sandy Feldman, Eadie's leadership and commitment to high standards of excellence set the perfect example for our younger members to emulate."
Nearly 3,000 NYSUT delegates, guests and staff will be in the city from Thursday through Saturday attending the assembly, which serves as the union's annual policy-making convention.
NYSUT, the state's largest union, represents more than 600,000 teachers, school-related professionals, academic and professional faculty in higher education, professionals in education and health care and retirees. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.