For those of us who have had a career as a teacher, Mayor Bloomberg's statement on Friday, which likened members of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) to the National Rifle Association, was stingingly hurtful.
The fact that the comment comes just weeks after what is perhaps the most horrific assault on students and teachers this country has seen, adds a level of malice that gives all of us who look to Mayor Bloomberg as a leader, cause for concern.
Perhaps Mr. Bloomberg did not realize it in the moment, but this is not just a mean-spirited and poorly timed attack on teachers. The comment also trivializes the impact of the NRA on those devastated by the national tragedy of Newtown (many of whom are teachers) and who see the NRA as a serious threat to our country's safety. It is also an attack, obviously, on the rights of workers to seek the protection of a union.
Does the Mayor really see the United Federation of Teachers as a threat like the NRA? He may not agree with them on every issue, but certainly he agrees with the premise that teachers, like all of us, should be afforded the right to unionize and the protections that a union affords them -- collective bargaining, fair wages, safe work conditions, which thereby make safe learning environments, and so on.
Is this the tone that he sets for the negotiations going on currently with the UFT that must be resolved by January 17th if the city doesn't want to lose $250 million? If so, it's no wonder these negotiations are stalled. Perhaps if Mayor Bloomberg could see the benefit of unions, and accept the premise that workers rights are not at odds with government interests he would be able to come up with a plan that works for New York City and that works for our teachers.