The New York affiliates of the American Federation of Teachers—the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) and NYC’s United Federation of Teachers (UFT)—are big-time political players in the Empire State. Randi Weingarten, the AFT’s national president, first rose through the ranks—and first waged war on school reformers—as president of the UFT.
Lobbying disclosure filings from the 2013 legislative session show that the UFT was the second-biggest player in the Albany influence game. NYSUT came third, just behind their city affiliate. Combined, the New York’s AFT affiliates spent $4.8 million lobbying the state.
In New York, the unions have put heavy pressure on the state to ease off on new teacher accountability standards that hold promise for improving student outcomes—as their parent has done nationally. NYSUT even booted its president on the theory that incumbent Richard Iannuzzi wasn’t sufficiently radical .
The union’s council also voted “no confidence” in the state education secretary, who has advanced the accountability standards. Ultimately, the AFT hopes to add to Randi’s collection of political reformers’ scalps and send a message to political leaders who would put students’ needs ahead of union needs: “Nice career you’ve got there—shame if anything were to happen to it.”