Alan Lubin — whose work fighting for public education, civil rights and working people has spanned a half century — received NYSUT’s highest honor Friday: the Albert Shanker Award for Distinguished Service.
“Albert Shanker taught me everything, including the skill of listening,” said Lubin, who in 2015 was named NYSUT’s executive vice president emeritus. “He used to throw out outrageous ideas and then he’d sit down and listen as they were transformed into debates and arguments.”
A former fourth-grade teacher from Brooklyn, Lubin served for decades in leadership roles in both the United Federation of Teachers and NYSUT, and spent 17 years as NYSUT’s executive vice president and head of the union’s legislative and political action operations. His work in that capacity helped establish the union as one of the most powerful forces in the state and his leadership helped secure numerous victories for NYSUT members across the state.
His many successes include protecting public employees’ pensions from inflation through enactment of a cost-of-living adjustment; winning record school aid increases; and gaining passage of legislation that requires schools to be equipped with automated external defibrillators — a move that has been credited with saving dozens of lives in schools and on athletic fields across the state.
Lubin was a young teacher and unionist in New York City when Shanker — the legendary UFT and AFT leader who pioneered a militant brand of teacher unionism — invited him to participate in meetings with other leading labor figures of the time.
“Those meetings were tough, really tough, but in retrospect, fantastic,” Lubin recalled. “Picture this: a chubby kid from Brooklyn sitting in a room with Al Shanker, Bayard Rustin, A. Phillip Randolph, Norman Hill. Those meetings were the genesis of my saying: If you are doing this alone, you are doing it wrong.”
Lubin said that saying is worth keeping in mind as the union confronts the numerous attacks on multiple fronts these days.
“We’re in for the fight of our lives,” he said.
Attending Friday’s Representative Assembly to see Lubin honored were his wife of 50 years and extended family, whom he thanked, noting they “spent many nights at home not seeing me” because of his union work. He also individually recognized his 13-year-old granddaughter, who already has established an impressive record of activism, having taken part in several marches and demonstrations in both Albany and Washington.
The co-founder of the Business and Labor Coalition of New York, Lubin remains active in union issues today. He serves on the board of the New York Rural and Migrant Ministry, as well as other social justice groups.
“His reputation precedes him and his actions speak louder than words,” said NYSUT President Karen E. Magee. “Alan is a humble servant.”
Promising to keep active as long as his legs “hold him up,” Lubin smiled and said, “I’m having a great ride.”