May 30, 2013
With the United Federation of Teachers due to endorse a mayoral candidate in just three weeks, its members are — like all New Yorkers — divided over whom to stand behind.
The union uploaded the cover of the new issue of New York Teacher, its newspaper for members, to Facebook on Wednesday, asking, “Who should we choose?” Teachers and others quickly responded with more than 100 comments that fell all over the electoral map.
“Liu. He was pro teacher and Union before he was Comptroller and not running for mayor like they all are now, feeding teachers what they want to hear,” wrote David Pambianchi.
“I teach in the Flushing area, and Liu was always very supportive of our school when he was councilman. I’d back him if I thought he had a shot to win. Too much scandal around him,” wrote Gary Malone. “I’d say Thompson or Deblasio.”
“Sal Albanese! A candidate that was a teacher and understands our concerns!” wrote Elle Ercolino. A few minutes later, Margaret DePaula wrote, “I did not like Albanese’s attitude at the Forum yesterday, he just kept harping on ‘Well since I am the only one who has ever been in a classroom.’”
One surprise, perhaps, was how many UFT members said they hope the union backs Anthony Weiner, who is mounting a comeback bid after resigning from Congress in 2011 because of a sexting scandal. An unscientific tally of positive comments found three for Albanese 12 for John Liu; 13 for Bill Thompson 13; and 18 Bill de Blasio. Weiner was mentioned positively 21 times.
“If we can forgive Weiner, he would be the most beneficial to our union,” wrote Jared Yapkowitz.
The only option to get the nod more often was some version of “Anyone but Quinn,” referring to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who has worked closely with Mayor Bloomberg and has pledged to continue to some of his education policies.
Some members questioned the union’s decision to back a candidate, which it did not do in 2009.
“I do not think we should endorse anyone!” wrote Rosie Rossito. “You have thousands of members who do not all want the same candidate — what gives the union the right to back one candidate on behalf of all of us?”
To some, the dissent comes as no surprise.
“The UFT endorsement doesn’t mean what it used to mean,” said Joe Williams, executive director of Democrats for Education Reform. “In the past, everybody was made to believe that it was their duty to follow the UFT president into battle. It’s harder to believe that now. They’re all over the map.”
But the union’s power remains formidable. Whoever gets the UFT’s endorsement will immediately have access to union dollars and a fleet of supporters willing to do the legwork — or phone calls from Florida — that any campaign needs to be successful. Responding to the original question the UFT’s Facebook post posed, Nilda Dontaine wrote, “You mean, who should we make. The UFT VOTES!”