The UFT Delegate Assembly on Sept. 18 enthusiastically voted to endorse Bill de Blasio for mayor of New York City.
“The great challenge for the next mayor is rebuilding the school system,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew, who brought the executive board’s recommendation to support de Blasio to the delegates.
De Blasio took the stage immediately after the vote at UFT headquarters to thank the delegates for their support and to promise to restore respect for teachers and the work they do.
“There are some heroes in our society, and they are called teachers,” he said.
De Blasio said public school educators could personally see the need for the education policies he supports. “Members of this union understand why we need pre-K, why we need after-school programs, why we have to get away from standardized testing, why we need to bring parents back,” he said.
Both of de Blasio’s children are products of the city’s public schools. His son, Dante, 15, currently attends Brooklyn Tech HS. “I’m a public school parent,” de Blasio said. “With your help, I would be the first mayor with a child in public school in the history of New York City.”
He also promised a new tone in City Hall. “We’re going to work incessantly to lift people up,” de Blasio said. “You’ll hear it’s not the mayor’s job to promote labor unions, that labor doesn’t represent the interests of the people of this city. I believe the labor movement created the American middle class. It will be my honor to work with unions because we share the same values and aspirations.”
He called it “a proud moment” when the UFT organized family child care providers.
The UFT’s endorsement came after a tumultuous eight days in which it was unclear if after the Sept. 10 Democratic primary de Blasio had gathered the 40 percent of the vote necessary to avoid a runoff on Oct. 1. Once it appeared the Board of Elections would not be able to count all the votes in a timely fashion, Bill Thompson, the UFT’s endorsed candidate in the primary, asked his supporters on Sept. 16 to unite behind de Blasio.
Mulgrew noted the education policies of the two candidates are very similar. He credited Thompson for stepping aside in the interests of uniting behind a Democratic candidate to ensure an end to Bloomberg’s disastrous policies over the last 12 years.
Mulgrew said he met privately with de Blasio and Thompson the previous Saturday. He called it “one of the most refreshing political conversations I have ever had in my life.”
Despite a new poll showing him 40 percentage points ahead of Republican candidate Joseph Lhota, de Blasio warned the UFT delegates against complacency. “The minute you think things are in the bag, they’re not in the bag,” he said.
And he called on them to prepare for a negative campaign from the opposition. “When those attacks come, we’re not going to be intimidated or thrown off our game, and we won’t be divided and conquered,” he said. “We’re going to stay on the offensive.”