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Two Women Warriors

                                                     Two Women Warrior

                             All In The Name of Public Education 

                                              By Bobbie Margo


If the status quo remains, Randi Weingarten (AFT President ) and Lily Eskelsen-Garcia (NEA President ) have already “made history.”  Weingarten is the first openly gay individual to be elected President of the 1.7 million members of the American Federation of Teachers.  Eskelsen-Garcia is the first Latina to be elected President of the National Education Association.  NEA is a membership of 3 million and counting.


Eskelsen-Garcia came through “the ranks.”  She began as a school “lunch lady”, and continued to teach in an elementary school.  In 1989, she was named Utah Teacher of the Year.  The press generated from that award allowed Eskelsen-Garcia to expand her union involvement, and she successfully took on the challenge of becoming State President of the Utah Education Association.  She continued to expand her involvement-now on the national NEA level.  Eskelsen-Garcia was elected to be NEA Secretary/Treasurer, NEA Vice-President, and finally NEA President: she held each position for the maximum 2 terms.  As of August 31, 2020, Eskelsen-Garcia will retire from NEA as an “active member” and will join the ranks of NEA Retired.  Nevertheless, she will continue her fight for quality public education.  She personally took on the fight to repeal “No Child Left Behind” and succeeded!  In 2016, she took on the newly appointed Secretary of Education-Betsy DeVos.  Eskelsen-Garcia has stood proud and loud with Teamster labor leaders, the AFL-CIO, and the AFT.  Garcia has worked hand in hand most notably with AFT President Randi Weingarten.


Weingarten was born in New York City.  Her early interest in trade unions and political advocacy was formed when her mother’s public school union, in 1974, went on a seven-week strike!  Weingarten went on to obtain a law degree and to handle high-level union grievances against the State of New York over school funding and school safety.  She worked for 3 years as a lawyer for the firm of Stroock & Stroock & Lavin, as well as teaching Law, Political Science, and U.S. Government at Clara Barton High School in Brooklyn.  She, too, moved “through the ranks,” becoming UFT (United Federation of Teachers) President in 1997.  In 2008, Weingarten succeeded then President Ed McElroy as the President of the AFT-a position that she currently holds.  Weingarten advocates a “bottom up” approach to education reform and says that public school officials should welcome the views-and account for the needs-of educators when working to help schools better serve their students.  And at this point in time, the NEA and the AFT operate “in concert” with each other at many state and local levels.

There is power within these two women; there is power within the people these two women represent.  These two women are warriors-all in the name of public education.

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