When the union needed a sharp lawyer, it didn’t have far to look as long as Jules Kolodny was around.
A member of the state bar, he argued teacher rights cases before the courts and the education commissioner. But as impressive as was his legal mind, Kolodny was also a bona fide scholar, holding a doctorate from NYU and writing for scholarly journals.
Still, if Kolodny had his sheepskins he had his working papers, too. From the time he became a high school social studies teacher in the Depression to his accidental death in 1984, he was at the epicenter of the union’s decision-making. Trusted consigliere to presidents Charles Cogen and Albert Shanker, he was there for every contract negotiation, political tempest and strike.
"He was a heavy," said Shanker. "I always felt Jules was the logical one to succeed Charlie when he stepped down." When Kolodny said no, the way was opened for Shanker.
Today, thousands use a meeting room at UFT’s headquarters named in his honor. Younger members, in all likelihood, have never heard of him. Too bad. He was there when it counted.