April 20, 2001

College of ILR Honors Distinguished Alumni

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While they might have problems sitting at the same negotiating table, they apparently don’t have any qualms about sharing a dinner table.

In their negotiations over New York City teachers’ salaries, Randi Weingarten ’80, president of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), and Harold Levy ’74, chancellor of the New York City Board of Education, have recently come to an impasse.

However Levy and Weingarten, both graduates of the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, put aside their professional differences last night as they were both honored at the school’s Celebration 2001 in New York City.

“We feel that [Weingarten] and [Levy] epitomize what the school represents. To have someone on the labor side and someone on the management side receive awards is indicative of the school’s goals and philosophy,” said Janice Guthrie, assistant director for external relations.

Weingarten received the Judge William B. Groat Alumni Award, which recognizes a graduate who has demonstrated exceptional professional accomplishment in the field of industrial and labor relations, according to Laurie Berke-Weiss ’71, president of the ILR Alumni Association.

“[Weingarten’s] achievements as a labor leader are many and highlight the strong relationship of the school to the labor movement,” Berke-Weiss said.

As president of the UFT, Weingarten represents more than 140,000 educators in the New York City public school system. She is also vice president of the national, one million-member American Federation of Teachers. Before becoming president of the UFT, Weingarten served as its treasurer and counsel to the president.

“[Weingarten] brings a unique combination of labor-management expertise, legal expertise and hands-on teaching experience to her leadership of the UFT,” said President Hunter R. Rawlings III.

Sharing the stage with Weingarten was Levy, who received the Jerome Alpern Distinguished Alumni Award, which is annually given to a graduate who has demonstrated exceptional professional accomplishment outside the field of industrial and labor relations, according to Berke-Weiss.

“[Levy] has been a true leader and innovator in the field of public education,” she said.

As the chancellor of the New York City Board of Education, Levy presides over the nation’s largest school system, which is comprised of approximately 1.1 million students. Before entering the school system, he worked as a corporate attorney. During his undergraduate time on the Hill, Levy served as a student-elected member of the Board of Trustees.

“In his 15 months as chancellor, [Levy] has demonstrated a firm grasp of the challenges facing New York’s public schools, and he has introduced an ambitious agenda of reform,” Rawlings said.

While the Groat Award has been given to an ILR alum annually since 1971, the Alpern Award was established three years ago.

“A lot of ILR graduates make careers outside of the field of industrial and labor relations. There was no mechanism to reward their efforts, so the Alumni Board and Advisory Council approached the Dean to create a parallel award,” Guthrie said.

Rawlings claimed that Weingarten’s and Levy’s accomplishments reflect the school’s importance in the field of industrial and labor relations.

“ILR is the foremost institution in the field, with a program that has grown in size and complexity to meet the needs of the American workplace and the global economy,” he said. “In honoring [Weingarten] and [Levy] on the same night — with the school’s two most distinguished alumni awards — we affirm the founding wisdom and continuing strength of ILR.”

After six months of negotiations, which involved disputes over teachers’ salaries, the UFT declared that it had come to an impasse with the Board of Education on March 9. The UFT requested the appointment of a mediator to resolve the dispute. The mediator, Robert Douglas ’73, also an ILR alum, was present at the awards banquet last night. Douglas has said that he does not know when he will begin his work to help the two sides reach an agreement.

Archived article by Stephanie Hankin