The city’s teachers union on Monday endorsed mayoral candidate Scott Stringer, a Democrat and a staunch union ally who has campaigned on hiring additional teachers and social workers.
The United Federation of Teachers’ endorsement means that Stringer, the current city comptroller, now has the stamp of approval from the city’s two major education unions, as the group that represents school principals and administrators endorsed him earlier this month.
Candidates heavily court the UFT’s endorsement, as the union represents over 120,000 active teachers, aides, and other school staff. The nod could give Stringer’s campaign a jolt by mobilizing members, though some factions within the UFT have criticized the endorsement process, and it’s unclear how much the endorsement will translate into votes. The group has struggled to back winning mayoral candidates over the last 30 years; in 2013, the UFT endorsed Bill Thompson who lost the Democratic primary to current Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Stringer was already considered among the top tier of candidates, though he has generally polled behind Andrew Yang, a former presidential candidate, and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. A significant chunk of likely voters remain undecided, according to multiple polls.
Whatever the outcome, the election comes at a pivotal moment for both the city and its more than 1 million public school students, whose learning has been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. New York City schools are under mayoral control, and the next mayor will make consequential decisions about the best way to catch students up, where to spend billions of federal relief funding earmarked for schools, and how to tackle some of the system’s biggest inequities, including widespread segregation.
“We know we need someone who knows how to get things done,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew, referring to Stringer’s years of experience in city government. “I don’t think this is a moment in our city’s history for a mayor with training wheels.”
Mulgrew said the union would commit to phone banking, member outreach, and thousands of volunteers to help elect Stringer, though he did not mention what financial resources, if any, would be deployed.
Stringer has proposed a number of union-friendly initiatives, including placing two teachers in every elementary school classroom, tripling the number of social workers in city schools, and building out a “high dosage” tutoring program.
The endorsement was ultimately decided by the UFT’s delegate assembly, a roughly 3,400-member group that includes representatives from every school. The assembly was asked to vote on a resolution endorsing Stringer presented by the union’s leadership, which passed with 90% voting in favor, according to Alison Gendar, a UFT spokesperson.
But some factions within the union say the process is undemocratic and that rank-and-file members have not been adequately included. Some argued that the union should have more strongly considered Dianne Morales, a former nonprofit executive and public school teacher, and one of the furthest left candidates in the race. Although the union invited her to a town hall, she was ultimately not selected as one of the final four candidates in the running for the endorsement: Yang, Adams, Stringer, and Maya Wiley, a former aide to de Blasio.
“I wanted some transparency on why some candidates were eliminated through the vetting process,” said Rambat Singh, a teacher at Riverdale Kingsbridge Academy in the Bronx who supports Morales. “We tend to always say that we should have more teachers at the table, and the union has the chance to endorse a fellow teacher in the race and they didn’t do so.”
Union officials said they considered candidates’ records, proposed policies, and electoral viability in their selection of the four finalists. Mulgrew, the union’s president, previously said the union had engaged thousands of members in its endorsement process.
“Every single endorsement has come from a committee of volunteers who did the questioning and vetting process on their own, and nobody has changed their recommendations,” he told Politico. “Every one of their recommendations has come through. I don’t know what else to do. How about no matter what we do, there’s gonna be a problem.”
Wiley and Stringer were considered the two most likely candidates to win the union’s endorsement. In the union’s final town hall meeting to assess the candidates, officials raised questions about Adams’ support of the charter school sector, surfacing a tweet in which Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz praised him.
And Yang, who has led in several polls, directly criticized the union regarding tenure rules and argued the teachers union has been a roadblock to reopening school buildings, a position that he backed away from during the union town hall.
The party primaries will be held on June 22.