Bloomberg likens teachers union to NRA

(By Jin Lee/Bloomberg)
(By Jin Lee/Bloomberg)

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I), blaming the teachers union for stalled talks on a new teacher evaluation system, expressed his anger on his radio show by comparing the United Federation of Teachers to the National Rifle Association.

“Teachers want to work with the best, and most of them are not in sympathy with the union,” he said on Friday. “…The NRA’s another place where the membership, if you do the polling, doesn’t agree with the leadership.”

His outburst came shortly after the UFT started airing an ad campaign that blames him for the stalled talks. If an agreement is not reached by Jan. 17, the city could lose $250 million in federal money for school reform. The union ad blasts Bloomberg’s education reform.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew reacted to Bloomberg’s comments in a statement that said: “In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, the mayor’s comparison this morning of teachers to the National Rifle Association is completely inappropriate, and a demonstration of how difficult he can be to deal with on any issue — much less one as complex as a new teacher evaluation system.”

And Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, sent a letter to Bloomberg asking for a public apology. Here’s the text of that letter:

Dear Mr. Mayor:

 

There are times when we say things in the heat of the moment that we regret.  I hope that is the case with the comments you made on Friday during your radio show comparing the NRA with the UFT.  They were offensive and way over the line.  I strongly urge you to apologize to the thousands of UFT members and their leaders for making such incendiary and insensitive remarks — especially coming on the heels of the tragedy in Newtown.

 

 You know full well that UFT members and other school employees do everything they can to make their schools safe and secure places so that children can learn and thrive.  As educators, they take a solemn vow to keep their students safe.  The instinct to protect, to serve and to love children is at the core of every educator and school employee. That’s why it is so disturbing and beneath the dignity of your leadership to compare educators or their union to the NRA— a group that promotes allowing terrorists to own guns; lobbies state legislatures to allow concealed guns in elementary schools, day care centers and on college campuses; and has worked closely with ALEC on getting 26 state legislatures to adopt shoot-first laws.

 

 The educators, custodians and school secretaries of Newtown are members of the AFT, including three who died or were injured protecting children from this unspeakable tragedy. I have spent several days in Newtown with educators, parents and members of the community since that awful day. One of the first things I did was call the president of the UFT, Michael Mulgrew, on the day of the killings to ask for UFT’s assistance in helping to provide grief counseling to our Newtown colleagues. The UFT was one of the first organizations on the ground to provide these vital services, and the help is ongoing. 

 

 Mr. Mayor, we have worked together for many years. We have enjoyed a relationship based on mutual respect and being honest with one another. Whatever collective bargaining differences you currently are facing with the UFT — and during our time working together we had many ups and downs — it is neither appropriate nor responsible for you to compare the UFT with the NRA. 

 

 No one has taken on the NRA more aggressively than you, which also is why your radio comments were so disturbing. It undermines the great work you have done on gun safety to draw this comparison. For all these reasons, I ask you to make a public apology.

 

 Sincerely,

 Randi Weingarten

President, American Federation of Teachers

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss · January 6, 2013