NJEA’s officers, President Marie Blistan, Vice President Sean M. Spiller and Secretary-Treasurer Steve Beatty, were honored along with NJEA with the Sol Stetin Award at the 37th Annual Sol Stetin Awards Gala. Hosted by the American Labor Museum in the Botto House National Landmark, the Gala annually honors individuals who have made outstanding contributions in their personal lives and professional careers to improve the lives of working people in the United States.
NJEA’s officers were introduced by Jersey City Education Association President Ronnie Greco. After recognizing and saluting the evening’s other honorees, Blistan highlighted NJEA members’ long history of advocacy for working people. She noted the work of NJEA’s first female president and recent New Jersey Hall of Fame inductee Elizabeth Allen, who advocated for New Jersey’s first pension system for educators, as well as the first tenure law to provide teachers with due process on the job.
Blistan traced that history through the present day, as NJEA continues to advocate for job justice – including due process and honoring contracts – for Educational Support Professionals and affordable health care for all school employees. She also noted NJEA’s advocacy for racial, social and economic justice for all people, both inside and outside the union.
“When we receive an award like this, it honors the work of 200,000 dedicated public school employees across this state,” said Blistan. “We know that our advocacy cannot end at the schoolhouse door. That is why we fight for justice for our students, their families and our communities. We work every day to create the conditions for success, so our schools will remain the best in the nation and our children will have the opportunity to flourish.”
Blistan noted that it was a particular honor to be recognized alongside other union leaders and labor advocates, and closed with a well-known quote from Edward Kennedy, “the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”
Spiller said of the award, “It is an honor to be recognized for doing the work we love. I am a teacher in Passaic County, not far from where Sol Stetin got his start in Paterson’s silk factories during the depths of the Great Depression. His rise from poverty to become a union leader devoted to uplifting others is an inspiration to all of us who follow him in the labor movement. Every union member, NJEA members included, is indebted to his legacy.”
Beatty, a history teacher, lauded the American Labor Museum for keeping alive the legacy of its founder, Sol Stetin. “This is a time of renewed energy and power in the American labor movement,” said Beatty. “The work is hard, but the example of pioneers like Sol Stetin proves that the work will pay off if we persevere. We intend to repay this honor by helping advance the movement that he helped build.”
The American Labor Museum is a non-profit 501(c) educational institution. The museum features changing exhibits, restored period rooms and Old World Gardens that reflect the lifestyle of an immigrant family of the early 1900’s, a free lending library (including books, audio and video cassettes, CD’s and DVD’s) and a Museum Store. Exhibit receptions, lectures, poetry readings, teachers’ workshops and other special events are offered.
The Museum’s education program provides on-site field trip programs, including Millworker/Millowner (in conjunction with Lambert Castle and the Great Falls Visitors Center) and Labor Education Tour (in conjunction with the Paterson Museum and the Great Falls Visitors Center) and virtual fieldtrips via videoconferencing (distance learning). Scouting programs, Saturday Labor Art classes, home-schoolers and after-school tours, lessons and, activities are available.