Bob Astrowsky, a former assistant secretary of United Federation of Teachers and the longtime chair of NYSUT's Representative Assembly convention committee, died Sept. 3 following a lifetime of unionism and leadership.
Astrowsky was born and raised in Brooklyn, where he attended public schools including Brooklyn Technical High School. He earned his bachelor's degree from Long Island University and his master's from Hunter College.
"I never heard (Astrowsky) turn down a call for help," recalled NYSUT Executive Vice President Emeritus Alan Lubin. "Bob could not say no. On his vacations, he would travel anywhere to help AFT organize. When asked, he would show up for a 6 a.m. picket line for any workers who needed support."
Astrowsky began his career in the New York City school system more than five decades ago as a teacher and subsequently as a guidance counselor. Soon after starting his career in education, he became a union activist for the UFT and was elected chapter leader of PS 148 in Manhattan. He later served for 24 years as UFT District 3 representative, a UFT Brooklyn borough representative, a UFT Executive Board member, member of the Negotiating Committee, member of the NYSUT's Executive Committee and Board of Directors and a delegate to the American Federation of Teachers and NYSUT conventions. He was also a delegate to New York State AFL-CIO conventions.
In July 2006, he became an assistant to the UFT president and was elected assistant secretary of the union. In 2009, Astrowsky was awarded the Charles Cogen Award, the UFT's most prestigious award for outstanding service to the union rendered by a veteran leader.
But perhaps most notably, Astrowsky chaired NYSUT's annual Representative Assembly convention committee from its inception. "Bob's leadership at our conventions and his dedication to union democracy made NYSUT a stronger, more representative organization," said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta. "He represented the interests of members on both the NYSUT Board of Directors and Executive Committee. Bob always worked to encourage members and leaders to advance their interests and concerns through the annual NYSUT RA's democratic processes.
"He will also be remembered for his sweet and loving ways."
"Bob was a trade unionist from the old school. He was respected by both management and labor," Lubin said. "His loss is a big blow to our labor community, to his family and to mine."