April 27, 2010

Sandy Feldman Outstanding Leadership Award: Maria Portalatin

Source:  RA 2010

"Not for Ourselves Alone:" The Sandy Feldman Outstanding Leadership Award

Maria Portalatin
United Federation of Teachers

Maria Portalatin's motto is "Yes I can. Yes I will." The spirit behind that conviction has taken her from beauty school to Georgetown University's School of International Labor Relations, from unemployed single parenthood to the vice-presidency of a national labor union, from activism in a local PTA to the leadership of 21,000 New York City public school paraprofessionals.

Her commitments to women, to labor and to the Hispanic community have helped Portalatin win many battles, both personal and professional, and she has inspired hundreds of minority women to follow her footsteps. Awards from numerous organizations have honored her achievements.

Portalatin is a strong believer in activism and involvement. From her early jobs to involve poor families in the education of their children to her organization of voter registration campaigns in New York City, she has advocated community involvement as the path for minority advancement. Similarly, she sees the trade union movement as an important vehicle for minority empowerment, and she has been involved in union organizing in Detroit, Arizona, Connecticut, New Mexico and Puerto Rico. The National Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, which she has led both nationally and in New York City for more than a decade, is devoted to promoting participation of workers of Latin descent and their families in the American trade union movement and the political process.