Many New York City public school educators and the union have been going full bore in their efforts to get Hillary Clinton elected president, UFT President Michael Mulgrew said at the start of the first Delegate Assembly of the school year in Shanker Hall on Oct. 19.
Just a few hours before the final presidential debate and with Election Day less than three weeks away, Muilgrew explained that the union was using a several-pronged attack to ensure its endorsed candidate makes it safely across the finish line.
“We have tons of volunteers,” Mulgrew told the body, clad in various pink items to promote breast cancer awareness. “We have social media volunteers, phone-banking volunteers and door-knocking volunteers.”
Mulgrew noted that he had just returned from Florida, where he worked with UFT retirees who volunteered in Orlando and Tampa in support of Clinton.
UFT, New York State United Teachers and American Federation of Teachers members also have been converging on Nevada, Ohio, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania — key battleground states that could decide the election.
“Two months ago, Nevada was not looking very good, but we have a large retiree delegation there doing work with the AFL-CIO,” Mulgrew said. “Now, Nevada has moved to a much better place. Pennsylvania is in a better place. But Florida is a straight-up toss-up at this moment. It can go either way.”
Mulgrew said the race is much more acrimonious in these states than it appears to be in New York.
“I just spent five days in Florida listening to some of the ugliest conversations,” Mulgrew said. “I’m wondering what it’s going to be like on the day after the election, with a country that is not just divided but is going into an angry place we haven’t seen in a couple of generations.”
Mulgrew explained the UFT’s endorsement process, especially for the benefit of the new delegates.
“We make endorsements based upon what is in the best interest of our profession and unionized workers,” Mulgrew said. “This endorsement, which was done by the AFT because it is a national race, was one of the easy ones because the other candidate wants to get rid of our profession and our union.”
Republican candidate Donald Trump, Mulgrew said, “says he wants to take the federal Title I program and make it a voucher program.”
Once the presidential race is over, he said, the UFT will turn its attention to the state Legislature, which will go back in session in January.
“We want funding that is owed to the city from the Campaign for Fiscal Equity decision 10 years ago,” Mulgrew said. He thanked teacher and UFT member Mindy Rosier for walking 150 miles to Albany in early October to put a spotlight on that issue.
He said the union also needs to work to make permanent the ban on the use of state ELA and math tests in teacher evaluations and to make sure the charter school cap is not increased.
Finally, he said, the union needs to educate voters to vote “no” to a state constitutional convention when the question appears on the ballot in November 2017.
“They want to take our pensions from us, and we can’t allow that to happen,” he said.