I was saddened to learn today of the passing of longtime UFT Vice President for Elementary Schools Abe Levine. He was 89. Abe retired as VP in 1993 but stayed on the Executive Board through 2013.
I respected Abe. Although we often disagreed, he was a man of principle. We had something in common as we were not afraid to state our opinion even if it was not the popular position.
Abe was a hawk on U.S. foreign policy very much in line with the Albert Shanker pro-Vietnam, hard line Cold War foreign policy. When Randi Weingarten was annointed to lead the Union, she moved our position on foreign policy a bit to the left. Abe would still get up at the DA and Executive Board and repeatedly speak out against the UFT's new slightly more 2000s mainstream Democratic Party positions on international policy. I disagreed but admired his resiliency and his ability to speak up for what he believed was right. Unlike in a previous era, Abe was not thrown out of the ruling Unity Caucus for disagreeing with the caucus on these issues.
Retired Teachers Chapter Leader Tom Murphy sent out the tribute below.
Abe Levine, the first vice president for elementary schools and a steadfast presence at the UFT until his final months, died on Thursday evening. He was 89 years old.
Funeral services will be held at noon on Tuesday, June 18, at Plaza Jewish Community Chapel at 630 Amsterdam Avenue (at 91st Street). UFT members are welcome to attend.
Levine joined the Teachers Guild — the UFT’s predecessor organization — in 1953. In the mid-1950s, he spearheaded the campaign to win the right to a duty-free lunch for teachers. When the UFT was born in 1960, Levine was elected its first vice president for elementary schools, a post he held for 33 years until his retirement in June 1993. He served on the UFT Executive Board for nearly 59 years, including his time with the Teachers Guild, until he stepped down in 2013. He missed only one meeting in all those years. Since his retirement, Levine continued to be an ardent trade unionist and regular participant at UFT events. He never missed an opportunity to work a phone bank or attend a rally. Levine also made a practice of visiting the sick, bringing them cheer and letting them know that their fellow union members had not forgotten them.
We will miss him tremendously. May he rest in peace.
Retired Teachers Chapter Leader