For decades, the United Federation of Teachers, the largest teachers union local in the nation, held the city in its sway. The UFT’s powerful get-out-the-vote efforts influenced mayoral elections. Its political power kept Albany legislators on a tight leash. And the city’s education policies sometimes mirrored the union’s agenda.
But in recent years, that power has been under threat, both locally and nationally.
Across the country, local teachers unions have been fending off attacks against basic labor rights, such as laws that repeal collective bargaining, and trying to defeat or water down scores of state-level bills that would tie teacher evaluations to student test scores, establish merit pay, or abolish tenure.
And in New York City, a billionaire mayor with no need for union dollars or endorsement has reshaped the city school system and picked fights with the union over its top priorities, including teacher tenure and job protections based on seniority.
Continuity and change
Together, the attacks have cut into the formidable might the UFT has wielded since it began representing all city teachers in 1962.