Randi Weingarten, the current president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), was born in New York City in 1957 and grew up in Rockland County, NY. She developed her interest in labor unions and politics as a teenager, when her mother—a teacher—went on strike. In high school, she and fellow students also successfully protested school board budget cuts.
Weingarten attended Cornell University and then the Cardozo School of Law. At first, she worked as an attorney at a law firm. In 1986, she left the firm and became counsel to Sandra Feldman, who was then president of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT). She represented the union in several important cases and by the early 1990s was the union's main contract negotiator. Weingarten was elected the union's assistant secretary in 1995 and treasurer in 1997, and then became president of the UFT the following year when Feldman became president of the AFT. Weingarten served in that position for 12 years, before becoming President of the AFT in 2008.
As President of the UFT, Weingarten fought for higher salaries and better training for teachers, as well as merit pay. In her leadership of the AFT, she works to put educational reform on the national agenda, to change how teachers are evaluated, and to provide all students with access to the education and services that they need.
In addition to her work as a lawyer and leader for teacher unions, Weingarten also has direct teaching experience, having taught history at Clara Barton High School in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, from 1991 to 1997.
Weingarten is an active member of Democratic National Committee, among other civic organizations. She served for ten years as the chair of New York City's Municipal Labor Committee, an umbrella organization for the city's many public sector unions.
Weingarten is a lesbian, and the first openly gay person to be elected president of a national American labor union. She and her partner were members of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, New York's gay and lesbian synagogue.
American Federation of Teachers. "AFT President Randi Weingarten." Accessed April 25, 2012. http://www.aft.org/about/leadership/president.cfm.
Wikipedia. "Randi Weingarten." Accessed April 25, 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Randi_Weingarten.