President's perspective

Good deeds to build on

Michael Mulgrew 2015 PortraitMichael Mulgrew As the new year begins, there’s no way to sugarcoat it: 2018 is shaping up as a very tough year for us. In the tax plan passed by Congress, UFT members are going to take a big hit to their wallets due to the new cap on state and local tax deductions. Albany lawmakers were already anticipating a $4.4 billion deficit in the state budget, but the tax legislation will no doubt blow an even bigger hole in the budget, which will squeeze education funding.

The lives of many people – including some of our students and colleagues — hang in the balance as the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program comes to an end in March unless Congress comes up with a solution to save DACA.

And we are steeling ourselves for the U.S. Supreme Court decision in anti-union Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which is expected in May or June.

But despite all that, we carry on. And we do so because we are union members. We bring our differences, our passions and our frustrations to the work we love. We often talk about how the union provides concrete value — the many rights and benefits that we enjoy as UFT members. That’s true, but there is more to being a union member than that.

Here’s what else you can count on: a feeling of solidarity among members at a moment in time when precious few opportunities exist for people to come together and work for the common good. You belong to a community of public school educators and other professionals who are motivated to help others and whose good deeds ripple far beyond the classroom.

Each year you don pink outfits and paraphernalia of every kind to walk and raise money for breast cancer research. On Oct. 15 of this year, NYSUT and the UFT once again were among the biggest fundraisers in the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walks.

The hurricanes that battered parts of the United States and the Caribbean this year also brought out the best in you. You’ve collected canned goods, diapers and batteries and raised thousands of dollars for people you have never met, from Texas and Florida to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Your generosity and caring was again evident once we launched Operation Agua, the campaign to bring water filters to Puerto Rican families in need.

You respond to the needs of colleagues and students who are confronting medical crises or tragedies in their lives. In a few notable cases, our members have donated a kidney to someone in need. That’s empathy in action. That is who we are.

During the terror attack in Lower Manhattan on Halloween, two New York City public school educators were among the first on the scene, helping to calm victims and administer first aid until the police and ambulances arrived.

And every year, you donate prom dresses, winter coats and toys for homeless students and other children in need. A lucky few of us get to attend the union’s prom mania events, Thanksgiving luncheon and holiday party and witness firsthand the joy that our members’ generosity sparks in these children.

You show up in all the ways that matter, and you make a difference.

These are the actions that define us as union members and strengthen us for the challenges ahead. Happy New Year!

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