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President's Perspective

Pulling through together

New York Teacher
UFT President Michael Mulgrew

UFT President Michael Mulgrew

This has been an extraordinary time for all of us. You have confronted the biggest personal and professional challenges in more than a generation, and you have met them with integrity. I cannot thank you enough. I have never been more proud of being your president.

Our Federation of Nurses/UFT members are on the front lines of this pandemic. The UFT represents hundreds of nurses at New York University Langone Hospital-Brooklyn and Staten Island University Hospital South. These nurses have worked tirelessly day after day in large Intensive Care Units full of COVID-19 patients — and have had to endure the crushing defeat of so many lives lost to this terrible virus.

Our UFT family has sustained more than 80 deaths due to the pandemic. I hope you will have the chance to visit the new UFT Honors website at that celebrates the lives of those we have lost.

We set up a UFT Disaster Relief Fund campaign to provide free, healthy meals three days a week for our nurses. Thanks to the generosity of UFT members, we have been able to provide those meals week after week to these amazing professionals.

The more than 120,000 UFT members who work for the Department of Education have also stepped up in countless ways. After winning the fight to get the mayor to close New York City public schools, you took on the challenge of switching the largest school system in the country to remote learning in a matter of days.

As members of a strong union, we know we are stronger together. As we scrambled to go remote, you helped each other to master the technology and freely shared ideas and strategies with your colleagues.

The city Department of Education has been releasing new guidance for the various job titles at a regular clip. As always, those of you who are actually doing the work are the ones who have figured it out.

A trusting relationship is at the heart of effective teaching and learning. Under the most stressful of conditions, you have stayed engaged with your students and their families, even as you’re dealing with personal anxiety and illnesses besetting your own family members and friends. Many of you have participated in joyful video messages from your school to students reminding them of your love and concern.

Children thrive on routines, and your quiet calm and focus have provided a vital source of stability for families whose lives have been upended by this virus. Parents have told me they have a deeper sense of appreciation for their child’s teachers and related service providers now that they see firsthand just how hard they work and how much they care for their children.

I have two main priorities in the months ahead. First, this union will do everything it can to prevent layoffs. Second, we need to have the protocols and procedures in place to ensure the safety and health of the staff and students before school buildings reopen. Before we return, there has to be widespread access to testing, a process for checking temperatures as people enter buildings, rigorous cleaning protocols and an exhaustive tracing procedure when someone tests positive for the virus. Sign our petition.

Without these things in place, school buildings will be fertile ground for the virus to spread, putting our students and staff — and the families they go home to at night — in jeopardy.

I hope you and your loved ones are taking care of yourselves and each other during this difficult time. Our support for each other will continue to make all the difference.

Stay healthy and safe.