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Michael Mulgrew is the fifth president of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) which represents approximately 185,000 teachers, paraprofessionals, school secretaries and other professional staff in New York City public schools as well as child care providers, nurses, adult education instructors, retired members and other titles and organizations.
A Staten Island native, Mulgrew has degrees in English literature and special education from CUNY’s College of Staten Island. He taught for 12 years at William E. Grady High School in Brooklyn, where he served as chapter leader, before becoming the union’s vice president for career and technical education high schools and later its chief operating officer. He was appointed president in 2009, and has since been elected to three terms.
During his tenure, the UFT has advocated for smaller classes, increased city and state funding, initiatives designed to remove barriers to learning and to promote positive school climates, greater parental involvement and reduced reliance on standardized testing.
In response to the dangers posed by the federal administration’s privatization agenda, Mulgrew in 2017 launched #PublicSchoolProud, a grassroots, school level and social media campaign supporting neighborhood public schools.
Mulgrew ensured teacher voice on Governor Cuomo's Common Core Task Force, resulting in a fundamental reset of education policy in New York State, including a four-year ban on the use of state growth scores to evaluate teachers and students.
Mulgrew was one of the leading proponents of the city’s Community Learning Schools Initiative, which brings social, medical and psychological services to school buildings together with strengthened academic support for students and their families. He also advocated for the PROSE (Progressive Redesign Opportunity Schools for Excellence) initiative, which gives teachers and school leaders the ability to introduce innovative and productive changes to the way schools function.
Reinforcing his belief that educators working with clinicians can solve even the most disruptive behavioral issues, Mulgrew championed the Positive Learning Collaborative. PLC actively shifts away from punitive action, replacing it with restorative practices that can change school climate as well as individual behaviors.
Under Mulgrew’s leadership, the union in 2014 won a teachers’ contract with the city that included full retroactive pay for members, with an 18 percent increase over nine years; reductions in paperwork; increased career pathways for teacher leadership; and a strengthening of parent engagement. He pressed to expand opportunities for paraprofessionals, resulting in the new Lead Teacher Assistant position and increased professional development.
On both the local and national fronts, Mulgrew actively promotes issues that include economic fairness, immigration reform, equality and social justice.
He serves as a vice president of the American Federation of Teachers; an executive board member of New York State United Teachers; a member of both the executive council of the New York State AFL-CIO and the executive board of the New York City Central Labor Council; and executive vice chairman of the city’s Municipal Labor Committee.