June 08, 2013

Retired leaders: Rally shows union is strong

Author: Darryl McGrath
Source: NYSUT Communications

Tamar Norman, a retired UFT member in her 70s and the NAACP education chair for Ulster County, gets off a bus on Washington Avenue and unfurls her NAACP banner. Like many retirees who traveled to today's "One Voice United" rally, she woke up at dawn to catch her bus.

"I'm supporting anything with education," Tamar says. "It's a pleasure to teach; it's not a job. You can't take away from education because of money."

benker cortese hobart

Benker, Cortese and Hobart. Photo by Darryl McGrath.

A block away, two of NYSUT's founding members - President Emeritus Thomas Hobart and former Vice President Antonia Cortese - pause to reflect upon the day with another pioneering member, NYSUT Executive Committee member and retiree president of the Kenmore Teachers Association, Don Benker.

"This brings the members together," Hobart says. "It tells the members that it's not just 'the union;' it's the members who support this effort. To see the union continuing to grow is just a wonderful thing. It brings to bear that all of us are stronger than any one of us."

Cortese, who also served as a national executive vice president and secretary-treasurer for the American Federation of Teachers, says the day "means that the union is strong and it's carrying on the heritage ofbeing an advocate for students and parents. It's just heartening that someone would get on a bus at six o'clock in the morning. It just shows dedication to their jobs."

Benker says that "one thing that's very important is thatit's not just teachers here. It's parents and school board administrators and it's really a reaction to the over-reliance on testing, and the fact that kids come home crying from all the testing. Why would we do that to kids?"