Tens of thousands of United Federation of Teachers members joined students, parents, community advocates, other union members and New Yorkers of all stripes calling for a fundamental reordering of the city's priorities at a May 12 rally in New York City.
"This city is upside down," UFT president and AFT vice president Michael Mulgrew told the huge crowd gathered outside City Hall. "It's not working for all of us, and that's why we are out here today. We want a city that works for everyone."
The UFT protesters, who marched en masse to Wall Street after the rally, were united in their outrage at Mayor Michael Bloomberg's insistence on teacher layoffs when the city has a large budget surplus. (The UFT website includes a gallery of photos from the rally and march.)
AFT president Randi Weingarten, who noted that she has traveled widely in recent months fighting against attacks on public employees' rights, said she never expected New York to act like Wisconsin, where much of the recent anti-worker legislation began. "There are lots of places across the country where there are real budget crises," she said. "New York is not one of them."
"They're using the kids as political footballs," said Suzanne O'Brien from I.S. 51 in Staten Island. "Wall Street gets away with murder, and the most vulnerable pay the price."
Among the protesters was a spirited group of fifth-graders from P.S. 156 in Brownsville, waving handmade signs opposing the layoffs. "We need our teachers, or class sizes will become bigger," said one student, who was exuberantly chanting "King Mike! Take a hike!"
The crowd was filled with teachers who told disturbing tales of how layoffs would devastate their schools. Dena Schwartz from P.S. 189 in the Bronx said her 4-year-old school would lose 17 teachers—almost half of its entire teaching staff. Maria Herrera and Damaras Solis Padilla from Columbia Secondary School in Harlem said their school was slated to lose 79 percent of its faculty.
Math teacher Judith Glazer, the UFT chapter leader at I.S. 125 in Woodside, said her school had been notified that five teachers would be laid off and 31 were in danger of being bumped to other schools. "I am here to fight for the children, our staff and our rights," said Glazer, who brought 45 of her colleagues to the rally. "If Bloomberg is the education mayor, he shouldn't be looking for layoffs. Enough is enough. We are not going back to 1975."
The rally also included the Rev. Al Sharpton, state NAACP president Hazel Dukes, public advocate Bill de Blasio, City comptroller John Liu, Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer, and a number of state legislators and City Council members.
This was the second major rally of UFT members and their allies in as many days in New York City. On May 11, protesters gathered to draw attention to the devastating impact that the mayor's budget plan will have on children and child care services. (See related story.) [United Federation of Teachers, Huffington Post/photo by Miller Photography]
May 13, 2011