Everyday heroes

Messner (left) and Satriano (right) with AFT President Weingarten.

Congratulations to Martin Messner, president of the Schoharie Teachers Association, and Joe Satriano, a retiree of the Roslyn Teachers Association, for being recognized as 2012 Everyday Heroes by the American Federation of Teachers.

Heroes is such an iconic word that brings to mind those who save lives.

Joe Satriano used his sadness to signal others that comfort can be found even in distress. When his wife Susan died of cancer after years of struggling with the illness, he reflected on how it affected his two sons. He calls children the “silent sufferers” in this illness. So Satriano decided to give them a voice. He used Susan’s life insurance money to start a foundation, building on it with fund-raising events and the sale of his book “In Sickness and In Health.” He has now raised close to a quarter-million dollars that he has given away in scholarships to high school seniors attending college who have or had a parent with cancer. He works with guidance counselors and meets almost every recipient, in person or on Skype, so that they talk about dealing with illness and loss.

Winning the award from AFT, he said, gave him a chance to make the voice of the “silent sufferers” even louder. He was thrilled to be able to “talk to teachers from all over the country” when receiving the AFT Everyday Heroes award today.
Later, he will be meeting his son, who lives in in the Detroit area, and taking some vacation time with him.

“”My family is so proud of me. They’re 100 percent behind the foundation,” he said.

In Martin Messner’s case, his Capital District local was honored for the work they did to help rebuild their community in the wake of the damage caused by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee late last summer. In his comments to the AFT convention today, Messner noted “the dedication of my fellow locals to help rebuild our town has been nothing short of a much needed miracle.” Messner cited the team effort of more than 300 people and 10o service organizations who worked with the Schoharie  union members, many of whom suffered directly through the disaster, to re-insulate hundreds of homes and businesses in the region last Columbus Day weekend. He noted NYSUT locals such as the Mahopac TA, which sent up a team that worked dawn to dusk for two straight days, and the United Federation of Teachers from New York City, which not only provided funds for the insulation but also sent a busload of people to help install it. Messner also praised NYSUT for support and training to him and his local.

Always a teacher, Messner also told members a valuable lesson he learned; kind of along the “give someone a fish he eats for a day, teach someone how to fish he eats for a lifetime” proverb.

He learned that if you give a person a $100 gift card, they will be grateful but,once the money is spent, they will forget who gave it to them. “But if you roll up your sleeves and toil beside them to help rebuild, it creates a bond solidified through sweat and tears that Wall Street will never be able to buy or match,” Messner told the conventioneers.

Messner sees that America needs some rebuilding. He sees growing anger at public employees being blamed for the nation’s financial crisis and the growing divide between the haves and the have-nots in our country. And then to see a television ad like the many sponsored by the Koch brothers that flood the airwaves to mislead people about unions — frustration! By the way, here’s a link to more coverage about the misleading ads the Koch brothers sponsor.

But he has seen that the American public knows the difference between television ads and real life. He predicts that if local unions across the country redouble their commitment to their communities and embrace efforts like those that Joe Satriano has started as well as his local, then people will reject the policies of those who want to punish unions.

Reporting by Betsy Sandberg and Liza Frenette

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