ALBANY, N.Y., June 24, 2008 -State Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno, R-Brunswick, leaves an unparalleled legacy of public service, marked by an unbending commitment to public education and New York's working men and women, New York State United Teachers said today.
"The Senate majority leader is an American original, a true American success story," said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. "Sen. Bruno never forgot his upbringing and has been diligent in respecting the voice of labor."
NYSUT Executive Vice President Alan B. Lubin noted that Bruno's youth - growing up in a cold-water flat, with an immigrant father working in the paper mills - "forged in Joe an unshakable belief in the power of education and the value of workplace protections for ordinary New Yorkers. Those ideals are his legacy."
Lubin, who met and spoke with Bruno regularly over some 15 years, called Bruno "a man of principle whose word was his bond."
"Joe was a partner who saw his leadership in the Senate as a way to advocate for children and public education. His commitment to public education and working people was unbending," Lubin said. "Even when there were disagreements - and we had them - Joe held firm to his core beliefs that New York state had an obligation to help those who are less fortunate."
Lubin also recalled personal moments with Bruno that showed a "tremendous sincerity."
After undergoing bariatric surgery several years ago, a slimmer Lubin recalled showing up in Bruno's office for a meeting. Bruno presented him with a set of dumb-bells to hasten his recovery, and then added some words of wisdom.
"He told me to work out at home, not in a gym where social conversation would distract me," Lubin said. "Joe said, 'You've lost the weight and now you need to get fit. You better do this, for your wife and your family,'" Lubin said, adding, "He always asks me if I'm keeping up with my exercises and eating right. It means a lot to me. His caring side is very sincere and it's a personal side the public doesn't often see."
NYSUT, the state's largest union, represents some 600,000 classroom teachers and other school employees; faculty and other professionals at the state's community colleges, State University of New York and City University of New York, and other education and health professionals. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and AFL-CIO.