Sandra Feldman (1939-2005), was elected in May 1997 as president of the 1.3 million-member American Federation of Teachers. She was the 15th president of the AFT and the union’s first female president since 1930. She also was elected to the Executive Council of the AFL-CIO in May 1997.
From 1986 through 1997, Ms. Feldman was president of the 130,000-member United Federation of Teachers (UFT) in New York City, the largest union local in the United States and an affiliate of the AFT. During that time, she also served as a vice president of the AFT.
Ms. Feldman was born in New York City and educated in its public schools, including James Madison High School and Brooklyn College. She holds a master’s degree in English literature from New York University.
A former teacher and UFT chapter leader at PS 34 in Manhattan, Ms. Feldman joined the UFT staff as a field representative in 1966. She was promoted through the ranks to executive director, a post in which she supervised all aspects of the union’s work. In 1983, she was elected secretary of the UFT, the union’s second highest office, before becoming president in 1986.
An active participant in AFT’s international work, Ms. Feldman was vice president of Education International, an organization of teacher unions in democratic countries, and traveled extensively in Asia, Eastern Europe, South America, and elsewhere to promote trade unionism and democratic principles.
Ms. Feldman was widely recognized as an authority on urban education and an advocate for children. Her long-standing commitment to social justice dates back to her involvement with the early civil rights movement, both locally and nationally, when she was arrested during the Freedom Rides and other protests in the 1960s. U.S. presidents, governors and mayors have appointed her to numerous commissions and task forces tackling educational, economic, child-welfare, labor and other social issues.
Upon Ms. Feldman's death in 2005, the AFT and UFT produced a memorial publication, Sandy: In Her Own Words.