New blood is important to any organization or institution so that it continues to maintain its mission and prepare for a dynamic future. With that in mind, the UFT Retired Teachers Chapter Executive Committee, at my request, recently authorized the creation of a Leadership Council.
These are some of the considerations that helped chart this new direction.
The UFT Retired Teachers Chapter should continually grow and change in order to effectively serve the interests of the chapter and our UFT rank-and-file retiree membership all within the context of maintaining successful existing practices and benefits.
It is the mandate of the RTC to preserve and, when possible, to enhance the economic, professional, organizational and political well-being of retirees consistent with the goals and policies of the UFT, its state and national affiliates, and those of all organized labor.
Since much of the current RTC leadership was re-elected in 2018 to a fourth term of office leading to 10 years of service, a need for self-renewal seemed appropriate to further promote member engagement and to continue effectively serving retirees. This must always be the priority of chapter leaders.
To that end, the Executive Board has created a small, fluid Leadership Council composed of mostly newer retirees who have not served in major union roles outside their schools or work units but have exhibited the skills and talents to serve the present and future needs of the chapter and its members.
The RTC chapter leader, with the advice and consent of the Executive Board, has chosen the following diverse group of newer retirees to kick off this new project: Chaitram Aklu, Steven Chazanow, Deborah Coquais, Doreen Crinnigan, Diane Grant, Cora Shillingford, Joe Sicilian, Nina Tribble and Tom Whitman.
The experiences each brings to the table will enrich and strengthen the chapter. And, as we go forward, we will focus on representation from elementary, intermediate and high school divisions, and from functional chapters and the Federation of Nurses/UFT.
Given their long service as teachers and retiree leaders, I have asked John Soldini and Vince Gaglione to serve as co-coordinators of the new Leadership Council. Their expertise will help guide the energies and progress of these enthusiastic participants.
It is envisioned that unscripted outreach, grounded in the well-developed policies and practices of the RTC and honoring past leadership upon whose shoulders we stand, will be developed.
The Janus Supreme Court decision, combined with other anti-labor assaults on working men and women, have taught us the importance of including rank-and-file union members in the life of their union. The groundwork done by the UFT in coordination with its NYSUT and AFT affiliates has demonstrated that strong rank-and-file participation in union activities is the best defense against such attacks. That we have been proactive in advance of these onslaughts has prepared us for the battles still confronting us. That is why engaging the fresh energies of newer retirees is so important.
Each Leadership Council member will be encouraged to develop a project of personal interest to enhance the interests of rank-and-file retiree members and to strengthen the chapter for the future. We expect that projects related to member engagement, tapping into the interests of rank-and-file retirees, involvement in union organizing and various forms of volunteering and political action, social and cultural activities, and more, will be high on their agenda.
We wish them well in their endeavors.