“We know what was, what is and what’s in the middle.” That’s Gloria Greenhut’s reason for her years of union advocacy as a retiree.
Greenhut was a physical education teacher for 40 years and a delegate and a chapter leader at IS 220 in Borough Park, Brooklyn, for part of that time. At the UFT’s 56th annual Retired Teachers Chapter Luncheon at the New York Hilton Midtown, she said, “I’ve been advocating for members since I retired in 2010 and it’s a wonderful feeling.”
Lorraine Donlon, an ESL teacher for 32 years and a chapter leader at PS 131 in Borough Park, also attended the May 28 event. “We’re always there. It’s what retirees do,” she said. “There’s so much more required of teachers since our days.”
The event honored retirees for chapter leadership, political and human rights activism, community service and for 50, 60 and 70 years of union membership.
At every table, they shared memories and traded stories. “It’s fabulous,” Maggie Martin said of retirement. “I’m able to pay my bills and go on trips all because of the union.”
But worries needled at Martin, who began her 44-year career as a paraprofessional and later became a reading teacher and the chapter leader at PS 140 in Jamaica, Queens. “I’m so afraid we will lose all we have accomplished if we don’t keep young people involved,” she said, “and if they don’t know the union’s history and how hard we fought for all we have.”
In the Grand Ballroom, 480 retirees listened to UFT President Michael Mulgrew name “chaos and confusion” as “the tools of the enemy” being used to try to weaken unions after the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME. He reassured them that the UFT remains focused and said that despite the onslaught, only a handful of people have opted out of the union.
“We have had to fight for everything we ever got and we will continue to fight,” Mulgrew said. He acknowledged the “passion” the retirees brought to their work with students during their careers, and he challenged them to bring that same passion to political activism in the years ahead.
Retired Teachers Chapter Leader Tom Murphy, who led the daylong celebration, pointed out that 2020 will mark the UFT’s 60th anniversary. He, too, challenged retirees to enlist in the struggle to protect the union and to be active in the upcoming political campaigns.
Paul Pecorale, the vice president of New York State United Teachers, the UFT’s state affiliate, awarded the NYSUT Retiree of the Year Award to Joyce Magnus, who has served the UFT in nearly every capacity, both as an in-service member and in retirement.
As a student in the Honor Steno/Typing Club at Manhattan’s now-defunct Central Commercial HS, Lenora Cordell took notes and typed the minutes of early UFT meetings held there and later became a member herself. She returned to the city from the state of Georgia to receive a community service award.
Also honored was Director of Retiree Programs Gerri Herskowitz, who received the Tom Pappas Award for outstanding service to the chapter.
A special proclamation honored Harold Rothman who, on the eve of his 91st birthday, still serves as a part-time consultant in the UFT’s Brooklyn borough office. The first chapter leader at PS 249 in Flatbush, Rothman served in that role until his retirement in 1995.
“These are dynamite people,” Murphy said of the honorees.