Benjamin Mazen

Benjamin MazenBenjamin Mazen

Benjamin Mazen hated supervisors with a serious passion. To him, all the raises in the world wouldn't change the fact that teachers were forced to work in a system he called "a thinly veiled despotism."

The whole "administrative-supervisory hierarchy," he said, was nothing more than a "parasitic element."

Had helived in an earlier time, Ben Mazen might have organized a peasants' revolt. But from the late 1940s to the early 1960s, he was a godsend to a teacher in trouble. A high school social studies teacher by day, Mazen was the legal mastermind behind the Guild's groundbreaking grievance committee. Whether it was challenging an unfair "U" rating or shielding a teacher from a bullying supervisor, Mazen and his team of teacher volunteers held the system to account at a time when there was no formal grievance procedure or contract. It was Mazen who set the system back on its heels by winning case after case involving academic freedom, the rights of substitutes, payment for military service, and pension rights. And it was he who authored "The Handbook of Teachers' Rights."

When the Guild and later the UFT needed a lawyer, it was Mazen the leadership tapped to be their general counsel. "He was our lawyer," said George Altomare. "If you had a problem, he was the guy you went to."

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