Richard C. Iannuzzi has served as president of New York State United Teachers since April 2005, leading the union through a period of tremendous growth, with membership now at more than 600,000.
A leading voice in the labor movement at both the state and federal levels, Iannuzzi serves as a vice president of the American Federation of Teachers and of the New York State AFL-CIO. He also serves as delegate to the national AFL-CIO and as co-chair of the New York State Labor-Religion Coalition.
With nearly 500 full-time employees, NYSUT represents a diverse membership that includes in-service and retired members in New York’s public schools, colleges, universities and health care facilities, as well as several private schools and colleges, non-profits and government agencies. Its programs are provided from 16 offices around the state; its more than 1,000 affiliates bargain collectively for benefits, working conditions and professional improvements.
Raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., in a union household, Iannuzzi taught elementary school in the Central Islip public schools for 34 years, including 20 spent as a fourth-grade teacher. He was active in his union from the beginning of his career, joining his local on strike in November 1970, his first year on the job.
As NYSUT president, he travels frequently around the state speaking to editorial boards and providing commentary on public radio delivering the union’s message on education and health care.
Throughout history, men and women of all ages have championed causes that brought to light abuses foisted upon humankind. These courageous people were able to Speak Up, Speak Out and enlighten the global community to take action against injustice and denial of human rights. Robert F. Kennedy was one such crusader for social justice and human rights.
In the spirit of NYSUT’s work for social justice, we have collaborated with the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights to provide you with lessons and resource materials on individuals who have defended human rights in all corners of the world. The lessons focus on defenders who spoke up for those with no voice, regardless of the threat of physical or psychological harm to themselves. These defenders Speak Truth to Power to ensure that others hear their stories and the stories of others.
The Speak Truth to Power lessons were designed by New York state teachers and bring to classrooms the passion of those who risk their lives for human rights. Their compelling stories are made real to students through a rich curriculum that is aligned with the New York State Learning Standards. The curriculum challenges students to think about how they can become defenders of human rights locally and how their actions will be felt globally.
I invite you to integrate these materials into your classroom curriculum. All the lessons are available online at www.nysut.org and at www.rfkcenter.org. Starting with one voice, a tiny ripple of hope, and growing, to quote Robert F. Kennedy, to “. . . a million different centers of energy and daring.” Thank you for moving forward the advocacy of these defenders.
New York State United Teachers