October 16, 2019

Remembering respected educator and dedicated unionist Pete McMahon

Author: Kara Smith
Source: NYSUT Communications
Pete McMahon

It’s with a heavy heart that the NYSUT family bids farewell to Peter McMahon, a respected educator and committed union leader who passed away on Oct. 13.

Honored in 2015 with the NYSUT Retiree of the Year Award for his decades of union activism and commitment, McMahon was a science teacher for nearly 40 years at Red Hook High School. He began his union career as a building representative, and was on the negotiating committee for the Red Hook Faculty Association from 1971 until his retirement.

Starting in 1980, McMahon served as RHFA’s president, a position he held for nearly 20 years. Earlier in his career, he was the local’s vice president.

Although Pete excelled as a local leader, political activism may have been his true calling. He was a stalwart fighter on behalf of union political issues, serving as the Mid-Hudson region’s VOTE-COPE coordinator starting in 1981, and on NYSUT’s statewide VOTE-COPE committee until 2014. He was also a member of the statewide union’s Political Action Committee from the late 1980s until 2014. Thanks to Pete’s activism, the voices of NYSUT members were heard clearly throughout the halls of the New York State Capitol.

As he once said about the importance of political activism within the union ranks, “Without NYSUT, a large number of the things that we consider to be a given, would no longer be available to us.”

Retirement did little to slow his dedicated work on behalf of the union. If anything, it simply gave him more time to fight for the principles he held dear. “I believe that retirees are a tremendously important resource," said McMahon, during an interview for his 2015 NYSUT Retiree of the Year award. "We as a union would not be able to protect what we have, and continue to achieve our goals, without active retirees.”

He embodied those words. After leaving the classroom, he was appointed to NYSUT's Retiree Advisory Committee, a position he held from 2008-14. He also served as Retiree Council 13’s treasurer for many years.

“One of the things I respected most about Pete was his willingness to listen to the input of others — I consider that openness to be one of the true qualities of a leader,” said Andy Pallotta, NYSUT president. “He represented the very best of our union; he will be deeply missed.”

“Pete dedicated himself to advancing the union movement throughout his career and exemplified what it means to be a unionist," said NYSUT Vice President Paul Pecorale whose office oversees retiree issues. “We owe a debt of gratitude to activists like Pete. May he rest in peace.”

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