“Four more years! Four more years!”
Mayor Bill de Blasio was serenaded with that chant as he walked to the Shanker Hall stage through a sea of cheering UFT delegates who had just voted overwhelmingly to endorse the mayor’s re-election bid set for this coming November.
“I want to thank you deeply and personally for what you did today,” de Blasio told the Delegate Assembly on Feb. 8.
While speaking in favor of the resolution to back de Blasio, UFT President Michael Mulgrew cited the mayor’s accomplishments over the past three years and said that he would be an important ally in the coming battles against the Trump administration’s efforts to tear down labor unions and public education.
“We are blessed that we have a mayor who will stand with every single public school teacher to defend our profession and the right to be unionists,” Mulgrew said.
De Blasio spoke to the delegates about the battle ahead. “We’re going to be fighting now for the soul of public education,” he said. “We are teetering on the brink of: Are we going to stay committed to the one thing that has always worked — a good public education — or are we going to let them slice it apart? That’s what’s at stake.”
Mulgrew said de Blasio has been working hand in hand with the UFT to steer the New York City public education system in the right direction after 20 years of hostile administrations. Graduation rates are at an all-time high, he pointed out, and universal pre-K, which the mayor spearheaded, is having its desired effect of providing a solid foundation for all children.
Mulgrew pointed out that de Blasio also made it a priority to settle all the union contracts for city workers. The mayor agreed first to a contract with the UFT, Mulgrew said, “making sure we got every penny we were owed after (former Mayor Michael) Bloomberg’s plan to not let that happen.”
The decision to endorse the mayor was recommended by a bipartisan committee of UFT members that began meeting in December. The committee determined that backing de Blasio was the right choice and that doing it now would make a statement of the union’s commitment.
PS/MS 164 Chapter Leader Greer Hansen-Velazquez, a member of the committee, said, “After surviving the Bloomberg and Giuliani years, to have us recognized and respected as a profession, to have what we do valued is so important. In my tenure as a teacher, I don’t feel we had a mayor who valued us until Mayor de Blasio.”De Blasio assured the delegates that won’t change.
“I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished together over the past three years,” de Blasio said. “We’ve taken this system forward in ways many never imagined. And now, as we look at what’s going on in Washington, we have to use the example of what we’ve done in New York City as proof positive of what can be accomplished.”
We need a public school system, de Blasio said, “that doesn’t turn away a student with a disability, that doesn’t turn away a student who doesn’t speak English. Our mission is to reach out to all students and help them any way we can — proving the naysayers wrong every time we succeed. Let’s go forward together.”