Wednesday, May 02, 2007 | 12:00am
The Albert Shanker Institute, in partnership with the AFT, organized an eight-person union leadership study trip to the Middle East in May 2007. The trip included an intensive schedule of meetings with teachers and other unionists from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Iraq, and Yemen, as well as with country and regional representatives of the AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center, the Democratic Party’s National Democratic Institute, and U.S. Embassies. The group investigated the current situation in the region and the role of education unions and unions generally in promoting democracy and peace. The study group had a particular interest in the volatile situation in Israel and the West Bank, meeting with the Israel Teachers Union and teachers unions in the West Bank, and, among other things, recommending that the AFT amplify its role in facilitating communication among conflicting parties, support for the international affairs work of the union and a greater concentration on international issues in leadership meetings of the AFT. In addition to AFT Vice President and Shanker Institute Board Member Ted Kirsch, who led the study group, participants included Paul Babich (United Teachers of Wichita), Ken Brynien (York State Public Employees Federation), Louis Malfaro (Education Austin), and Mary Cathryn Ricker (St. Paul Federation of Teachers).