Randi Weingarten has been a tireless advocate for teachers and American education for more than two decades. As the current president of the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, Weingarten represents 1.5 million educators and school support staff.
She was elected in July 2008, following 11 years of service as an AFT vice president. She has fought to ensure teachers and school support personnel are treated with respect and dignity, have a voice in the education of their students, and are given the support and resources they need to succeed in the classroom.
Weingarten also served for 12 years as the president of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), representing approximately 200,000 nonsupervisory educators in the New York City public school system, as well as home child care providers and other workers in health, law, and education. Weingarten began her career at UFT as counsel to president Sandra Feldman, taking a lead role in contract negotiations and enforcement, and in lawsuits in which the union fought for adequate school funding and building conditions.
Weingarten has first-hand knowledge of the modern constraints and challenges being placed on teachers. From 1991 to 1997, she taught history at Clara Barton High School in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights, where she saw her students win several state and national awards debating constitutional issues.
Weingarten chaired New York City’s Municipal Labor Committee, an umbrella organization for the city’s 100-plus public sector unions, for a decade. As chair of the MLC, she coordinated labor negotiations and bargaining for benefits on behalf of the MLC unions’ 365,000 members.
Weingarten holds degrees from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations and the Cardozo School of Law. She worked as a lawyer for the Wall Street firm of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan from 1983 to 1986. She is an active member of the Democratic National Committee and numerous professional, civic, and philanthropic organizations.
Nimble and effective leaders like Weingarten are much needed at a time in history when public workers and – particularly school teachers – are under attack. With this award, the National Consumers League acknowledge the critically important role the nation’s public workers play and recognizes Weingarten for her deft leadership and ability to articulate the interests, commitment, and passion of the nation's public school teachers and their often unsung work.