The long-time union leader of the Buffalo Teachers Federation is gearing up for re-election. WBFO's Senior Reporter Eileen Buckley talked with Phil Rumore, who has been BTF president since 1981.
“Yes, I’m running again. There’s still work to be done. There’s a lot of people that would like to see me leave, but I’m not going to give them the gratification,” replied Rumore.
If Rumore is re-elected this spring, it will mark his 36th year as union leader of city school teachers. Rumore won a big battle last fall, finally reaching a new contract after a 12-year stalemate. Rumore gained 10-percent raises for teachers, plus two-percent increases for the next two years.
“Doing the union work is important, but people really don’t understand doing the union work is also doing work for the kids, like when we fight for smaller class size, when we fight for more school counselors, when we do other kind of things to get more supplies into the classroom. Yes, there’s financial things, but we also fight, because remember, a teachers working conditions are a student’s learning conditions,” remarked Rumore.
BTF elections are held every two years. Most years, Rumore has run unopposed, but in 2015 he did face two challenges. Rumore says in a meeting last week, it didn't appear a challenger has stepped forward so far.
“We had a meeting when people would announce and they didn’t, so they have ten days to announce,” Rumore explained. “They have ten days to announce and we’ll know in ten days.
WBFO asked Rumore why he believes teachers continue to support his leadership. “I’d hope that they feel that I’m doing the right thing by them and by the kids. One of the things I will do: I will never stop fighting and that doesn’t mean you have to be battling, you have to work to try and achieve it. One of my favorite expressions is ‘a problem is something in search of a solution,'” Rumore replied.
Rumore said he’s not giving up. He said there are plenty of funding battles to fight for education.
“We’re working in Albany. I was just in Albany and they’ve got a thick book. I made a presentation to them. We are also working with the Common Council. They have to start coming up with some money to, but we are also working with the courts. As you know, there’s another court case. There used to be what’s called the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, where the state was found guilty. The state stopped funding that, well we’re back in court…and we expect a decision sometime within the next six months where we will bring more money into the poor school districts,” declared Rumore.
Like him or not, Rumore does display a strong passion for school children. Rumore got choked up as he recalled helping a student two years ago.
“When he got a job, he came back to me and gave me a card that said ‘You saved me once when I was a kid,'” Rumore stopped and teared up. “You saved me when I was an adult.”
Rumore tells WBFO he remains energized year after year because of the challenges. Rumore said it was his mother who taught him that when you believe in something you have to fight for it.
“My mom brought me up to say when you believe in something you have to fight for it and you have to work towards it,” Rumore stated.