NEW YORK , April 10, 2008 – New York State United Teachers will pay tribute to a civil rights pioneer tonight during its annual convention, presenting its highest award – the Albert Shanker Award for Distinguished Service – to the Rev. Dr. Joseph E. Lowery, a civil rights leader and former top aide to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
In announcing Lowery's award, NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi noted that this year's convention is focusing on the union's commitment to social justice and the historic ties between organized labor and the civil rights movement. As co-founder and former president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and a stalwart supporter of social activism, Lowery is the ideal candidate for the prestigious award, Iannuzzi said.
"Our union leadership voted unanimously to bestow upon you our highest award, named after the late, great union leader and president of the AFT, Al Shanker, in recognition of your lifelong commitment to civil and human rights, and your strong support of the AFL-CIO and the labor movement," Iannuzzi told Lowery. "You are a true pioneer in this nation's civil rights movement."
NYSUT is also honoring King's contributions to civil and human rights by displaying a King photo exhibit during this Representative Assembly. The photos feature King's efforts to help sanitation workers form a union in Memphis, Tenn., the city where King was assassinated 40 years ago this month. NYSUT borrowed the exhibit from the Wayne State University library.
Among his scores of contributions, Lowery oversaw the historic Selma to Montgomery Freedom March to Alabama's statehouse in 1965. As president of the SCLC in the 1970s, Lowery negotiated agreements with major corporations that improved working conditions for minority employees and opened business opportunities for minority companies. Although he retired from the SCLC in 1998, Lowery remains active in the fight for civil rights, human rights and workers' rights.
After receiving the Shanker award, Lowery will deliver the keynote address to NYSUT's 3,000 delegates, meeting at the New York Hilton through Saturday.
NYSUT represents more than 585,000 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.