AFTPA marks the passing of leader Sunny Richman

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Statement by Ted Kirsch on the death of labor leader Sunny Richman

AFT Pennsylvania marks the passing today of a legendary PFT and PaFT leader, Sunny Richman. AFT Pennsylvania President Ted Kirsch was mentored by Ms. Richman and shared his thoughts on her contributions to our union.

“Sunny Richman had a vision for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, Local 3, that helped make it the largest and most powerful union local in the state of Pennsylvania.

“As secretary of the PFT, she was the organizer and energy that led us through the tumultuous, 58-day strike in 1972-73, during which hundreds of PFT members were arrested by the Rizzo administration. She presided over a period when the PFT, which had represented only teachers, expanded to include paraprofessional educators, non-teaching assistants and food-services managers.

“Sunny went on to become President of the statewide Pennsylvania Federation of Teachers (now AFT Pennsylvania). She was an excellent teacher in a program that now would be called career and technical education. She guided the young women in her program at South Philadelphia High School into good jobs and placed many of her talented students in union jobs at the PFT, where several still work today.

“She was stylish and elegant. There are pictures of her protesting the arrests of PFT leaders and members outside Holmesburg Prison in a mink-trimmed coat. It was quite a sight – classic Sunny with a bullhorn in mink in the dead of winter. But she was a fighter and a leader at a time when the union was young, and the PFT benefited tremendously from her energy, organizational skills and dedication to bettering the lives of her students and Philadelphia school district teachers and staff.

“Sunny was a strong, confident leader who fought for the union and its members and took pride in mentoring young union leaders like me, for which I am grateful. Although she left the union in the mid-1980s, she left an indelible mark on those who knew her and on the city she loved.”

April 25, 2018