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UFT members size up 2021 candidates

New York Teacher
Exterior façade of NYC City Hall
MusikAnimal - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52313310

New York City is facing an historic turnover in local government, and the UFT is making sure that its members get a front-row seat with the candidates running for office.

Due to term limits, 35 of the City Council’s 51 members, as well as the mayor, the city comptroller, the Manhattan district attorney and four borough presidents, cannot run for reelection this year.

“It is a tremendous opportunity for the UFT and its members to help elect the next generation of city leadership,” said UFT Political Director Cassie Prugh.

The UFT has organized remote member screening panels across the city with the candidates seeking these offices to help determine who the UFT should endorse in these races.

For the New York City mayor’s race, the union has organized a series of virtual town halls to evaluate about a dozen of the more than 40 candidates who have filed to run. At each town hall, three or four mayoral candidates answer questions from a panel of rank-and-file members.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew concluded the first town hall on Feb. 2 by speaking about the pandemic’s impact on schools and how the union is committed to helping educators and their students deal with the aftereffects.

“We will take this challenge on, but we want a partner in government to work with us,” he said.

Mark Walters, a social worker and UFT chapter leader at MS 556 in the Bronx, participated in both the UFT candidate screening for his City Council district and the union’s first mayoral town hall. “I got to speak directly to the people running for office,” said Walters. “That was pretty empowering.”

Walters said UFT members had a huge stake in the mayor’s race. “It’s really critical that we have a mayor who understands the needs of educators, who’s actually willing to change the system.”

Anne Wine, who teaches art at PS 150 in Queens, said UFT member involvement in candidate evaluations “will give them greater confidence in the candidate we ultimately choose to endorse in each race.”

Wine said it was particularly important this year that UFT members feel engaged in the political process. “We are going to need elected officials to lead us through this COVID and economic crisis,” she said.

Dermot Smyth, the UFT’s political action coordinator for Queens, noted that UFT members have always screened candidates running for office, but the virtual meetings that have become the norm during the pandemic are a game changer.

“The virtual world has made member involvement much more possible,” said Smyth. “We’ve been able to engage thousands more members in the process than ever before.”


Come to our next mayoral forums

The UFT is holding a series of virtual mayoral town halls to introduce some of the candidates who are running for mayor this year. We want to give you the opportunity to hear from candidates on issues of importance to you so you can cast an informed vote in the June 22 primary.

  • Tuesday, Feb. 23, 5:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, March 9, 5:30 p.m.
  • To register, visit nyc2021.uft.org.
Related Topics: Political Action