Earlier this year, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT)—an affiliate of Randi Weingarten’s American Federation of Teachers (AFT)—got almost all that it wanted—including billions of dollars in “back pay”—in its negotiations with New York City and Mayor Bill de Blasio over a new contract.
UFT heavily backed de Blasio’s election with $250,000 in “independent expenditures” on his behalf, so it’s not surprising that the new mayor would want to repay his supporters handsomely. But reporting by Crain’s New York Business suggests that the pay-off for this sweetheart deal went well beyond campaign contributions: The national AFT gave the Campaign for One New York, a 501(c)(4) lobbying group run by de Blasio’s campaign manager, $350,000 one month before the UFT deal was sealed.
AFT claims the donation was part of the union’s longstanding support of government-funded pre-kindergarten, but the timing is highly questionable. (De Blasio administration officials denied any impropriety to Crain’s.) The director of NYC good-government watchdog Citizens’ Union told the New York Post: “To have a newly elected mayor start a nonprofit organization to support his big initiative — and then go calling for dollars from those who are involved in the city’s business — is unseemly.”
There’s another interesting nexus at the Campaign for One New York: That between Berlin Rosen—the people behind the “worker center” fast food and retail corporate campaigns—and the NYC Mayor’s Office. Berlin Rosen ran de Blasio’s election campaign and now runs P.R. for the Campaign for One New York. There’s a reason UFT, UNITE-HERE (in a highly controversial and possibly illegal manner), and other labor unions (including the SEIU) back de Blasio—his people are their people.