Transitions: O’Sullivan Retires, Malfaro Comes Aboard as Texas AFT Secretary-Treasurer

Today marks the retirement of Texas AFT Secretary-Treasurer John O’Sullivan, who has helped Texas AFT grow to become the largest union in the state labor federation, the Texas AFL-CIO. O’Sullivan has effectively taught and exemplified the meaning of solidarity, knitting together diverse coalitions of school employees, community and parent activists, and business and labor leaders in a common understanding of their mutual responsibility to support and improve public education. As Texas AFL-CIO communications director Ed Sills put it in a fine online tribute today, “John is a persuasive labor activist, a fighter when necessary, a wonderful teacher and a heck of a nice man. We all wish him the best in retirement.”

Effective tomorrow, the new secretary-treasurer of Texas AFT will be Louis Malfaro, making his own transition from his longtime role as president of our local Austin ISD affiliate. A front-page article in today’s edition of the Austin American-Statesman, the capital city’s daily paper, sizes up his impact on Austin ISD as follows:

“A charismatic leader who never shies from confrontation, Malfaro has succeeded in helping transform the local teachers’ group into a powerhouse. He has been instrumental in raising teacher salaries an average of 33 percent during the past 10 years. The average base salary for Texas teachers increased nearly 26 percent during the same time period.

“Malfaro strengthened the relationship between employees and administrators and helped grow Education Austin to more than 10 times the size it was when he was tapped by the group’s executive board in 1992 to become president. Education Austin now has more than 4,000 dues-paying members….”

One former Austin ISD board member, quoted in the article, gives Malfaro high marks for effective advocacy: “He’s very passionate about education. He was an excellent classroom teacher who was able to articulate teachers’ needs and the classroom needs in a public forum.” And the school district’s personnel chief, who frequently faced Malfaro across the negotiating table, offered this assessment: “The leadership style that Louis has is that he can be very, very persistent. But he also knows when there’s the time to look for a solution.” Now, as Texas AFT secretary-treasurer, Malfaro will keep up the good work on behalf of the 65,000-plus members of our union statewide.