Thomas Y. Hobart Jr., a founding member of NYSUT and a pioneering union organizer of New York's public school teachers, will receive the Albert Shanker Award for Distinguished Service — the highest honor bestowed by NYSUT — at the union's 42nd annual Representative Assembly.
The award is named after Albert Shanker, the late legendary president of the United Federation of Teachers in New York City and president of the American Federation of Teachers, and recognizes special contributions to public education.
Hobart — NYSUT's president emeritus — will accept his award at the RA's opening session tonight at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York City.
"NYSUT is the strong and influential organization that it is because of the groundwork laid by Tom Hobart and the leadership he provided," said Hobart's successor, NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. "There is no one who deserves this award more than he does."
Hobart started his career as an industrial arts teacher and guidance counselor in Buffalo in the early 1960s. He was a pivotal figure in the founding of NYSUT and helped lead the fledgling New York State United Teachers in 1972 as part of a growing national movement to give a voice to classroom teachers and other professionals in public school systems.
When Hobart assumed the presidency in NYSUT's earliest days, teachers struggled to support their families, faced capricious dismissal and threadbare retirements. Nurses and school district employees such as bus drivers and cafeteria staff often did difficult and undervalued work with no union representation. Higher education faculty and staff struggled for the rights of academic freedom and faculty governance.
But, with the backing of NYSUT and under Hobart's leadership, these dedicated professionals were able to become better advocates for their students and patients, and a unified voice for safer and fairer work conditions. By the time Hobart stepped down as NYSUT president in 2005, the union had grown to represent more than 600,000 members from a range of professions in public and private education, human services and health care.
Hobart was a powerful, lasting and influential voice of labor during his tenure, which spanned the terms of seven U.S. presidents and five New York governors. He was a tireless advocate for the solidarity and strength that labor brings to working people, and the belief that public education is an empowering and basic human right. Under the auspices of the AFT, he traveled to more than 40 nations, helping to establish or strengthen free trade unions and public education, and lending labor's support and message of hope to countries devastated by disease, disaster or tyranny.
More than 3,000 delegates, guests and staff are convening this weekend for the NYSUT RA, the union's largest policymaking body. The convention will open tonight and continue through Sunday afternoon.
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