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United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.

How the nation’s largest local teachers union is responding to a Trump future — ‘no choice… but to fight’

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew sent the following message to roughly 3,000 UFT delegates on Thursday afternoon. 

Given the import of this week’s events, I decided that instead of a Chapter Leader Update, I would send you this email addressing the election results and its ramifications on our schools, our students and our union.

I know the election results have left many of us shell-shocked. Many are worried about what the future holds for our families and our nation. And as public school educators, we are worried about the children in our care — the undocumented immigrants, the children in poverty, the Muslims, the LGBTQ kids.

As chapter leaders and union delegates, you can provide a safe place for members to talk and to lean on each other as we navigate the road ahead. As educators, we have to keep our own emotions at bay at school as we are called upon to answer our students’ questions, ensure that they feel safe and valued, and keep them inspired and focused on their education.

At our Delegate Assembly on Wednesday, you shared powerful and heartbreaking stories about your first day back at school. A teacher at International HS at Union Square relayed that an 11th-grader confided to him that her dream of going to college died the day before and her parents had started talking about moving back to their home country. A Queens teacher had to calm the fears of one 3rd-grader that World War III was coming. A Bronx high school teacher shared how she changed the topic of the Socratic seminar she had planned from Shakespeare to the election.

In times like these, we have to hold fast to our core beliefs: that public education is critical to the future of this country; that all communities inside our school communities deserve respect and dignity; and that workers have a right to unionize and be treated fairly.

In the months and years ahead, we are going to face some of the greatest challenges that this union and its members have ever faced. There will be seismic policy shifts with Trump as president, both houses of Congress in Republican hands and the U.S. Supreme Court with a right-wing majority. We always try to work with people first but if they attack one of our core beliefs, we have no choice as a union but to fight. This is an opportunity for us to organize, both among our own members and with others in our communities.

How we fare in this battle will come down to the grit we have. We can draw strength from knowing that our fights have always been righteous fights. We will work with those who share our values — including parent and community groups and civil rights and immigrant rights associations — because we know we are more powerful when we stand together.

We must keep moving forward. Our families, our students and the communities we serve are depending on us. We will get through this together.

I thank you for all that you do.