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by Dorothy Callaci | October 29, 2009 New York Teacher issue
After a spirited debate, the UFT delegate body voted overwhelmingly on Oct. 14 to postpone a resolution to endorse William Thompson and to remain neutral — for the time being at least — in the upcoming mayoral election.
Arguing for postponing any endorsement, UFT Staff Director LeRoy Barr said, “Three weeks is a long time in politics. Right now, we are players. I’m asking that we remain players in this race.”
He reminded delegates that whatever their personal politics, their responsibility as delegates was to vote for what’s best for the union’s 200,000 members.
Alluding to the complicated politics involved in making a decision that will directly affect the union for years to come, Barr said, “I strongly suggest that what is best for the members is to postpone this debate.”
If the political scene changes, Barr added, the UFT can always call a special Delegate Assembly to vote on an endorsement.
The debate was prompted by a motion from the floor by Jonathan Halabi, chapter leader at the HS of American Studies at Lehman College, to endorse Thompson.
Paul Egan, the UFT’s legislative and political action director, talked to delegates about the need to weigh all the options and consider how the race is shaping up. He described a David and Goliath battle in terms of campaign spending, the lack of consensus between labor unions and several polls that had Bloomberg far ahead of Thompson. “We have to ask ourselves, ‘What would we gain by getting in? What would we lose?”
Taneeka Jones, the chapter leader at PS/MS 42 in Queens, agreed that the union should remain neutral. She said that Thompson has not “laid out a plan for education.”
Edward Hernandez, a delegate from IS 136, said he was in favor of supporting Thompson because he was “tired of [Bloomberg’s] taking credit for the work I do every day.” He added, “I don’t say we should throw ourselves on our swords, but we shouldn’t run away from a fight either.”
The delegates then voted to postpone any endorsement.
A week after the Delegate Assembly, Thompson told the Daily News editorial board that teachers shouldn’t get the 4 percent raise that other municipal workers have won over the last year because the city can’t afford it. He also said that he supports creating a new pension tier for new city employees, but that it should be devised collaboratively with unions at the table.