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

'Not for Ourselves Alone:' The Sandy Feldman Outstanding Leadership Award honors those women who have provided throughout their careers significant service and leadership to their local and state affiliates, as well as to the labor movement.

The 2017 honoree is Sonia Basko, NYSUT Special Projects Coordinator and former president of the Penfield Education Association.

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No method can accurately count and multiply the number of lives positively impacted by teacher and union activist Sonia Basko, who is being honored posthumously.

She changed thousands of students’ lives as a high school English teacher for 18 years; an adjunct professor at Niagara University and at Finger Lakes and Monroe community colleges; and as a literacy consultant. As a unionist, she was active in the Penfield Education Association, where she became local president. She was a NYSUT Board member, then became special projects coordinator for NYSUT as a self-described “warrior for public education and civil rights.”

Basko was staff liaison for NYSUT’s flagship sponsorship of the statewide American Cancer Society Making Strides campaign, working at the Rochester walk even as she was in treatment for cancer.

A graduate of the NYSUT and AFL-CIO leadership institutes, Basko organized Picket in the Pines, NYSUT’s first statewide rally in the North Country, and the union’s Fair Trade outreach programs.

She worked with the NYSUT Civil and Human Rights Committee, helping to create the campaigns on “Start the Conversation,” addressing racial equality; and “Why in Five,” showing union action on educational justice, immigration reform, child labor protections, women’s rights, fair trade, and the fight to combat hunger and poverty.

As a child, Basko had cancer and attended Camp Good Days and Special Times in western New York. She remained a volunteer with the camp throughout her life. She died at age 43 on Dec. 29, 2016.



About the Leadership Award

The "Not for Ourselves Alone" Outstanding Leadership Award was renamed in 2006 in honor of former AFT and UFT President Sandy Feldman. Feldman succumbed to breast cancer in September 2005. In the spirit of Sandy Feldman and all those female pioneers within NYSUT who have been recognized with the award since it was first presented in 2002, the award will continue to celebrate the contributions of NYSUT's largest constituency group - women.

A lifetime achievement award, it honors those women who have provided throughout their careers significant service and leadership to their local and state affiliates, as well as to the labor movement. In making a selection, the NYSUT Women's History Committee will consider length, breadth and depth of service. The selected honoree(s) will be recognized at the annual NYSUT Representative Assembly. All nominees will receive a certificate acknowledging the submission of their name for this honor.

About the Leadership Grant

The Sandy Feldman Leadership Grant in the amount of $2,000 has been established as a result of the generosity and vision of Sandy's husband, Arthur Barnes. READ MORE...

About Sandy Feldman

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A teacher and unionist, Sandy Feldman (1939-2005) had a groundbreaking career as a union leader in NYSUT, the AFT and her home local, the UFT in New York City. Her career in education and labor spanned more than four decades. From her beginnings as a second-grade teacher on New York’s Lower East Side in the early 1960s, Sandy rose quickly through the union ranks, organizing staff on her first job. Shortly thereafter, she took a job as a full-time field representative for the UFT, handling grievances, contract negotiations and a range of issues. She eventually took over the reins of the union, becoming its president in 1986. She was elected to head the AFT in 1997. In the process, she became a staunch advocate for civil rights and social justice, participating in the Freedom Rides of the 1960s and the historic 1963 March on Washington, evolving into a proponent of civic education and democracy in the international arena and a leading voice in the national and international labor movement.

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Saluting Additional Pioneers

A woman’s place is in the union ... particularly in New York State United Teachers