Donesa Jackson and Pete McMahon, who combined, represent more than seven decades of dedicated labor activism, were honored as New York State United Teachers' 2015 Retirees of the Year.
McMahon, a science teacher for nearly 40 years at Red Hook High School and a long-time past president and vice president for the Red Hook Faculty Association, is also a staunch political activist, serving as the Mid-Hudson VOTE-COPE coordinator from 1981 until 2014, and a Political Action Committee member from the late 1980s until last year.
"Retirees' contributions to VOTE-COPE are extremely important not only for how they help NYSUT affect legislation, but because they also are a valuable link to the in-service local," said McMahon. "Without NYSUT a large number of the things that we consider to be a given would no longer be available to us."
As a retiree, McMahon remains active, serving his third term as a member of the NYSUT Retiree Advisory Committee and, for nearly the last decade, as Retiree Council 13 treasurer.
"I believe that retirees are a tremendously important resource," said McMahon. "We as a union, would not be able to protect what we have, and continue to achieve our goals, without active retirees."
Jackson, a United Federation of Teachers retiree, former chapter leader for P.S. 89 and a part-time pension consultant, salary and licensing advisor at the UFT Bronx office, remains active in retirement, serving as the UFT's retiree leader in the Orlando, Fla., area of Orange and Seminole counties and as a member of the Orlando Central Labor Council. She regularly coordinates with the American Federation of Teachers/Florida Education Association locals on issues and campaigns/ She also established a local chapter of the Alliance for Retired Americans. Due to her activism and political leadership, Jackson was a 2012 elected delegate to the Democratic National Convention.
"My union has done so much for me that I must give back," said Jackson. "And the way that I can give back is in the work that I do as a retiree for my union."
Quipped Jackson, "We have our hip replacements and our knee replacements, we have our walkers and our canes, but we are there!"
"The consistent support of members like Donesa, who've dedicated themselves to advancing the union movement, is an inspiration for us all," said Karen E. Magee, NYSUT president. "Donesa Jackson is a testament to the fact that today's active membership owes a large debt of gratitude to our retired members."
"Pete and Donesa's commitment to improving the lives of working families and to the labor movement is not limited to their professional lives — they continue to make that a focus of their life's work," added NYSUT Vice President Paul Pecorale. "Both represent the very best of our union."