UFT supports calls for Cuomo to resign in wake of sexual harassment probe

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks at a podium indoors, with the New York City skyline visible behind the windows to his right.

The state teachers union, with support from its city counterpart, called for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s resignation Tuesday after an investigation found that he sexually harassed multiple women, violating state and federal laws.

The report from state Attorney General Letitia James, conducted by independent investigators, found that the governor engaged in unwanted groping, kissing, and hugging, and making inappropriate comments to 11 women, most of whom are current and former state employees. James’ office launched the monthslong investigation after several women publicly accused the governor of harassment. 

The 165-page report quickly drew calls for Cuomo to resign from elected officials — including President Joe Biden and State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie — education advocacy groups, and the state teachers union. In a statement, Heastie said he would seek to complete the Assembly’s own impeachment investigation into the governor “as quickly as possible.”

“The attorney general has detailed conduct that is repugnant and indefensible in any workplace and especially in the state’s highest elected office,” Andy Pallotta, the president of the state teachers union, said in a statement. “Equally troubling was the governor’s response to the report. Sadly, both show he is unfit to serve in office.”

In a recorded response to the investigation, Cuomo said he has never inappropriately touched anyone and apologized to a former aide who had accused him of making unwanted sexual comments, insisting that she misinterpreted his remarks. He also displayed a montage of pictures of himself embracing and kissing various men to prove that he behaves that way with many people. 

The city teachers union, the United Federation of Teachers, did not issue a statement, but spokesperson Alison Gendar noted that they are affiliated with the state union, and they support Pallotta’s statement. When allegations of sexual harassment first became public, Pallotta had called them “serious” and in need of an investigation, as did the city teachers union. 

Both the city and state teachers unions have had major previous disagreements with the governor during his tenure, including over teacher evaluations and Cuomo’s support for charter schools. But his relationship with UFT President Michael Mulgrew has improved over time, and more recently, Mulgrew found support from Cuomo during some of his most contentious fights with Mayor Bill de Blasio — a political foe of the governor’s — over school reopening details last year. Cuomo has largely left complicated school reopening decisions up to localities, including New York City, though he attempted to override some of de Blasio’s decisions about school closures or cast doubt on his decisions. 

Some education advocacy groups already highly critical of Cuomo have also called for him to step down, including Alliance for Quality Education, or AQE, which focuses on bolstering school funding. 

“We are an organization of nine women, and we are all too familiar with the toxic culture of the New York State Capitol,” Zakiyah Ansari, advocacy director for AQE, said in a statement. “That environment is the same one that nurtured Andrew Cuomo into a ruthless politician, and it will still be there tomorrow when he is gone. We need accountability in Albany, and that starts with the Governor.”

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