'Not for Ourselves Alone:' The Sandy Feldman Outstanding Leadership Award honors those women who have provided throughout their careers significant service and leadership to their local and state affiliates, as well as to the labor movement.
The 2014 honorees are Sandra Bliss of Retiree Council 12 and Rona Freiser of the United Federation of Teachers.
Retiree Council 12
Sandra Bliss taught math and served her union for 40 years in the Frankfort-Schuyler School District. During every year of her long tenure that began in 1969, she held either elected or appointed union positions of leadership. She jumped right in when the Frankfort-Schuyler teachers went out on strike for four days in 1971 and coordinated the strike headquarters.
Even today she remains on the local union's bargaining team. Upon retirement, she got involved with Retiree Council 12, now serving as vice president, and organized her local union's retiree chapter, of which she is president. She served on the NYSUT Board for 24 years.
As an articulate spokesperson, Bliss participated in the original Committee of 100 and has continued to do so ever since. She believes that political action is central to union work and that coalition building is an important facet of political action. For many years, she coordinated the VOTE-COPE drives at her local. She also coordinated and ran the phone banks at the Utica Regional Office and organized and operated phone banks for the Central New York Labor Council.
Bliss also believes professional development is a cornerstone of union life. In 1985, she became the first director of the Mohawk Regional Teacher Center and was the catalyst that moved the teacher center forward.
United Federation of Teachers
Rona Freiser, a student of New York City public schools, has devoted her considerable energies and talents to public education and educators since she first began her career as a special education teacher at August Martin HS in Queens. She taught there for 24 years and was elected chapter leader by her colleagues at the school for 16 years.
In 2001, Freiser became the UFT district representative for high schools in Queens. In 2006, she was promoted to the union's Queens borough representative, where she now oversees the work of the union for the entire borough and all its members, representing educators in elementary, middle and high schools.
She is known for her compassion and perseverance as she advocates fiercely for her members, students, special education services and the resources needed to deliver quality education to all of our city's students.
Freiser created the union coaches program that mentors new teachers, a program so successful that it serves as an example of best practices and has been widely replicated. She has been recognized with awards and citations from the Queens Borough president, the New York City Council and the Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens, where she has made an impact through her ongoing political activism. Freiser is a member of the NYSUT Board of Directors and the UFT Executive Board.
Like all good leaders, she believes in mentoring and sharing her knowledge and skills.
About the Leadership Award
The "Not for Ourselves Alone" Outstanding Leadership Award was renamed in 2006 in honor of former AFT and UFT President Sandy Feldman. Feldman succumbed to breast cancer in September 2005. In the spirit of Sandy Feldman and all those female pioneers within NYSUT who have been recognized with the award since it was first presented in 2002, the award will continue to celebrate the contributions of NYSUT's largest constituency group - women.
A lifetime achievement award, it honors those women who have provided throughout their careers significant service and leadership to their local and state affiliates, as well as to the labor movement. In making a selection, the NYSUT Women's History Committee will consider length, breadth and depth of service. The selected honoree(s) will be recognized at the annual NYSUT Representative Assembly. All nominees will receive a certificate acknowledging the submission of their name for this honor.
About the Leadership Grant
The Sandy Feldman Leadership Grant in the amount of $2,000 has been established as a result of the generosity and vision of Sandy's husband, Arthur Barnes. READ MORE...
About Sandy Feldman
A teacher and unionist, Sandy Feldman (1939-2005) had a groundbreaking career as a union leader in NYSUT, the AFT and her home local, the UFT in New York City. Her career in education and labor spanned more than four decades. From her beginnings as a second-grade teacher on New York’s Lower East Side in the early 1960s, Sandy rose quickly through the union ranks, organizing staff on her first job. Shortly thereafter, she took a job as a full-time field representative for the UFT, handling grievances, contract negotiations and a range of issues. She eventually took over the reins of the union, becoming its president in 1986. She was elected to head the AFT in 1997. In the process, she became a staunch advocate for civil rights and social justice, participating in the Freedom Rides of the 1960s and the historic 1963 March on Washington, evolving into a proponent of civic education and democracy in the international arena and a leading voice in the national and international labor movement.
Hall of Fame
Saluting Additional Pioneers
A woman’s place is in the union ... particularly in New York State United Teachers