Mark Newton says he can’t go anywhere in San José with David Yancey without having someone yell out, “Mr. Yancey! You were my favorite teacher!” 

Newton, a past recipient of the Ben Rust Award, and the first president of the San José/Evergreen Federation of Teachers, was presenting CFT’s highest honor to Yancey, former CFT vice president and leader of AFT Local 6157.

Newton shared presenting with a few others, all wanting to talk about Yancey’s skills as a union leader. Gemma Abels, president of the Morgan Hill Federation of Teachers, talked about Yancey’s work with the South Bay Labor Council, saying along with teaching his students history, he involves them in creating it, phone banking, and walking precincts for causes like Proposition 55 to extend a tax for schools on people earning over $250,000. 

“He’s not only a heavy lifter in the weight room, but in the South Bay Labor Council as well,” she said. 

Former legislator Paul Fong, now Local 6157 president, says his feet are still flopping around in the big shoes Yancey left to fill. He recalled how Yancey’s relentless calls led him to vote against a bill for two-tier tuition in higher education, which was eventually killed. 

Yancey joked he wished he knew the person everyone had been talking about, and went on to talk about CFT’s accomplishments, such as a tax on the highest earners for education and fighting the accreditation commission trying to revoke City College of San Francisco’s accreditation. 

“Being a member of any union is a noble thing, but this isn’t any union,” Yancey said. “This is the CFT, and it is so much more. It has accomplished so much for the people of this state. With Proposition 30 we taxed the rich for the first time in 40 years. We were in a fight for our sisters and brothers against the ACCJC, and it was really a fight for their very existence. It exemplifies the old union adage, ‘An injury to one is an injury to all.’”