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RTC Section Spotlight

Activism abounds in Orlando

New York Teacher
UFT members come together to support better pay for Florida teachers

RTC Orlando section members are joined by Chapter Leader Tom Murphy (front, left) and UFT Treasurer Debra Penny (front, fourth from right) at a Jan. 13 march in Tallahassee to support better pay for Florida teachers.

When Donesa Jackson retired to Florida in 1996 after 32 years as an elementary school teacher and an educational liaison at the UFT’s Bronx Teacher Center, she took along her educational and union activism. The chapter leader at PS 89 in the Bronx for four years, Jackson added her talents to the union’s Orlando retiree section, becoming its coordinator in 1998.

She organizes two important meetings a year for the UFT retirees living in the Orlando area — the annual meeting that draws Retired Teachers Chapter officers to the state to update local retirees on all issues that concern them and a second meeting with experts focusing on pension and health benefits.

This year, the section’s annual meeting was held aboard a bus — “Benefits on the Bus” — carrying Orlando area retirees and RTC leaders to a Tallahassee rally on Jan. 13 on the eve of Florida’s 2020 legislative session. The gathering was to support educators across the state in their demands for more funding for public schools. The retirees joined UFT President Michael Mulgrew and AFT President Randi Weingarten, who spoke at the rally to draw attention to teacher salaries in Florida, the fourth-lowest in the country according to National Education Association data.

Jackson, who was an elected delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 2012, draws her members into political action campaigns on the local and state level through her work with the Orlando Central Labor Council, the UFT’s state affiliate NYSUT, the AFT, the Florida Education Association and the Alliance for Retired Americans, for which she established a local chapter. Like their New York City counterparts, UFT retirees in Orlando act as a daytime army in support of all union activity in the area.

They are getting even more active politically as all nine UFT retiree sections in Florida coordinate campaigns for the crucial upcoming presidential election. Jackson has been meeting with committee members to plan a 2020 election campaign with New York union retirees living in Florida. The UFT retirees in Orlando will be part of this statewide effort to deliver Florida, a swing state, to the Democrats in the presidential race.

Jackson runs the section from her home and stays in touch with members through phone calls and email blasts from Boca Raton, the headquarters for all the Florida retiree sections.

“The UFT has always given me the best,” Jackson noted, “so I continue to give them my best.”

Related Topics: UFT Organizing