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AFT Resolutions

ON THE PASSING OF AFT PRESIDENT EMERITUS SANDRA FELDMAN

WHEREAS, Sandra Feldman was born Sandra Abramowitz in October 1939 and was raised in a poor, working-class neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., within a supportive, loving family; and

WHEREAS, Sandra Feldman attended public schools which instilled in her a love of learning and opened previously unknown worlds to her, an experience that would shape her lifelong commitment to serving disadvantaged children, expanding educational opportunities and improving public schools; and

WHEREAS, Sandra Feldman graduated from James Madison High School in Brooklyn in 1956, earned her undergraduate degree in English from Brooklyn College in 1960, and received her master's degree in English literature from New York University in 1963, immersing herself not only in her studies but also in social justice and civil rights causes that would prepare her for a lifetime of leadership in civil and trade union rights; and

WHEREAS, Sandra Feldman, under the tutelage of renowned civil rights leader Bayard Rustin, put her civil rights convictions to work in the early 1960s, contributing to a campaign to integrate Howard Johnson restaurants, and helping to organize the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom; and

WHEREAS, Sandra Feldman began her career in education by teaching first and fourth grades at Public School 34 on the Lower East Side, during which time she displayed unparalleled dedication not only to her students but also to the principles of unionism, organizing her colleagues at PS 34 in less than a year; and

WHEREAS, Sandra Feldman was quickly recognized for her leadership by her friend and mentor, the late American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president Albert Shanker, who in his role as president of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) in New York City made her a full-time UFT field representative in 1966; and

WHEREAS, Sandra Feldman played a critical role in the growth and consolidation of the UFT from the 1960s onward, helping to build the UFT into a powerful voice for its more than 150,000 members; and

WHEREAS, Sandra Feldman was elected president of the UFT in 1986, quickly rising to prominence as an impassioned and respected advocate for UFT members, the teaching profession, public education and the children they all serve; and

WHEREAS, Sandra Feldman extended her leadership to the national stage in 1997, becoming the AFT's 15th president and first female president since the 1930s; and

WHEREAS, Sandra Feldman, during her seven-year tenure as AFT president, strengthened her national reputation as a fearless and innovative education leader, lobbying presidents, members of Congress and state legislatures for higher academic standards; more school accountability; rigorous teacher training and professional development; smaller class sizes; the adoption of research-based programs for raising student achievement; and significantly greater resources for urban and low-performing schools, investments she viewed as critical to helping disadvantaged children rise out of poverty and share in the American dream; and

WHEREAS, Sandra Feldman vigorously and effectively represented all of the AFT's constituency groups in addition to teachers by advocating for greater pay and respect for paraprofessionals and school-related personnel; building support for public services and the employees who provide those services; bringing attention to the national nursing shortage and the need for lower patient-to-nurse ratios; highlighting the civic and democracy-building benefits of higher education, as well as the need to expand student access to college; and lobbying for healthcare and economic security for all members, including retirees; and

WHEREAS, Sandra Feldman throughout her career displayed unrivaled dedication to children, particularly poor children and their need for, as she put it, a "level playing field," a conviction that propelled her to champion high-quality universal preschool and propose Kindergarten-Plus, a program that provides extended learning opportunities for disadvantaged students before and after the normal kindergarten year; and

WHEREAS, Sandra Feldman, ever true to her principles, distinguished herself as an unwavering proponent of freedom and democracy abroad, condemning terrorism and repression of human and worker rights wherever those abuses occurred; and

WHEREAS, Sandra Feldman generously lent her expertise and talents to both the national and international labor movements, serving on the AFL-CIO executive council and as a vice president of Education International; and

WHEREAS, during Sandra Feldman’s tenure as president, the AFT grew by more than 365,000 new members, or 38.6 percent—the largest growth in a seven-year period in the union's history; and

WHEREAS, Sandra Feldman, even after retiring as AFT president in 2004, continued to play a prominent role in union and civic life, serving on the board of the Albert Shanker Institute and numerous other organizations; and

WHEREAS, Sandra Feldman succumbed to cancer and died on September 18, 2005, at the age of 65; and

WHEREAS, Sandra Feldman, or "Sandy," as she was known almost universally, will always be remembered for her sharp intellect, big heart, resoluteness, feistiness, quick sense of humor and passion for life:

RESOLVED, that the AFT, its affiliates, and members mourn the passing of Sandra Feldman, a leader with vision, "smarts," strength and compassion; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT express its deepest sympathies and condolences to her family and all those who knew and loved Sandra Feldman, particularly her husband Arthur Barnes, her sister Helen Berliner and her brother Larry Abramowitz; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT recognize and honor the essential contributions Sandra Feldman made to our union, the labor and civil rights movements, public education from the prekindergarten to postgraduate level, public services, the healthcare profession, the betterment of children and the promotion of freedom and democracy around the world; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT pay tribute to the legacy of Sandra Feldman by continuing to advance, with vigor and tenacity, the causes she held so dear. [Executive Council, October 2005]


(2005)