United Federation of Teachers urging New York City Council to elect female speaker

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Teachers union president Michael Mulgrew speaks as Mayor Bill de Blasio announces that the city and the United Federation of Teachers have reached a preliminary agreement on a new contract at a press conference at City Hall on Thursday, May 1, 2014. Photo Credit: Bryan Smith

New York City’s teachers’ union, the United Federation of Teachers, passed a resolution on Wednesday urging the New York City Council to elect a woman as the next speaker.

Over 85% of the union’s 2,000 person delegate assembly voted to pass the resolution, according to UFT President Michael Mulgrew, to make it clear that they would prefer a woman take on the role of speaker next year when the majority of the City Council’s 51 members will be women.

“They think it says a lot about the city if we don’t,” Mulgrew told amNewYork Metro. 

Members of the New York City Council decided who will become speaker but the choice can be influenced by outsiders including labor unions. The UFT’s resolution comes less than a month before New York City residents head to the polls again this year to cast their ballots for a slew of City Council seats as well as mayor, comptroller, and public advocate — and weeks before the city and state politicos and lobbyists will fly to San Juan, Puerto Rico to attend the annual SOMOS conference, where behind-the-scenes dealing takes place. 

At the moment, Councilmembers Carlina Rivera, Keith Powers, Justin Brannan, Adrienne Adams, and Francisco Moya are running for speaker but Mulgrew would not say the union favored a particular female candidate for the job.

“There are some really great candidates in City Council right now. Some women that are there that have proven themselves to be quite good at really helping their communities and doing different things,” said Mulgrew. 

In the resolution, members state that they recognize “the presence of women’s voices as a part of policymaking is paramount” and pledge to continue to advocate for women to serve in the city, state, and federal government.

Two of the last three City Council speakers have been women. Christine Quinn, the first woman ever to hold the post, served for eight years between 2006 and 2013, followed by Melissa Mark-Viverito in the following four years.

The current speaker, Corey Johnson, is term-limited and unable to run for another term in the City Council.

Whoever winds up being the next speaker will wield great political power in New York City as the main architect of the legislative agenda, including hammering out an annual budget with the mayor.