Teachers unions are no different than private-sector unions when it comes to investing member money on political issues. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and its local affiliates have pumped over $585,000 into controversial civil rights leader Al Sharpton’s National Action Network (NAN). But AFT’s New York City local president, Michael Mulgrew, is in hot water with a segment of his membership for getting too close for his own good.
Sharpton and NAN held a march protesting police conduct in the NYC borough of Staten Island. Mulgrew joined the protesters and cosponsored the march. (News reports suggest his national boss, ex-UFT head Randi Weingarten, also showed up.) But there was a catch—Mulgrew’s membership (or at least a sizable, loud bloc within it) opposed his involvement. As the Staten Island Advance editorial board noted shortly after the march:
His decision to commit the union to this controversial demonstration has not been universally applauded by members.
Diane Morton-Gattullo, a paraprofessional at PS 29 in Castleton Corners, says union members were “blindsided” by Mr. Mulgrew’s unilateral decision.
“This is not something we were ever made aware of,” she said. “This [anti-police demonstration] is not a cause we should be involved in — we’re educators, not activists.”
Then, last week, a number of Staten Island teachers wanted to wear t-shirts expressing support for the police department. The United Federation of Teachers (Mulgrew’s union) sent a passive-aggressive warning to teachers suggesting they could be disciplined for taking a pro-NYPD stand. (The city felt differently.)
Union-backed Mayor Bill de Blasio has also been pressed into service to heal a fresh rift between the teachers union and the city police union. But while de Blasio called the idea that the teachers and the cops were feuding a “media fabrication,” the police union has expressed consistent outrage that Mulgrew would march with Sharpton against patrolmen’s due process under law.