August 26, 2014

3 Police Unions Throw the Book At Mulgrew Over UFT Role in March

Infuriated by Alliance With Sharpton

The Chief-Leader/Robert Cannizzo
GUILTY BY ASSOCIATION?: After being harshly criticized by several police-union leaders for co-sponsoring the Aug. 23 Staten Island rally calling for justice in the death of Eric Garner, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew marched behind American Federation of Teachers leader Randi Weingarten, ex-Gov. David Paterson and the Rev. Al Sharpton wearing a T-shirt that read, ‘One Community, One City, Respect for All.’ One of the marchers behind him was less temperate, carrying a sign that read ‘Jail Killer Cops,’ symbolizing the concern the police-union leaders had about the UFT’s participation.

The leaders of three police unions expressed outrage last week at United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew’s decision to have his organization co-sponsor the Aug. 23 rally led by the Rev. Al Sharpton on behalf of Eric Garner, who died last month after officers subdued him during an arrest on Staten Island.

MICHAEL MULGREW: Stepped on cops’ shoes.  
PATRICK J. LYNCH: UFT wrong to inject itself.  
EDWARD D. MULLINS: Mulgrew ‘should step down.’  
MICHAEL J. PALLADINO: ‘Aligned with extremists.’  

“The Teachers union should not in any way be involved in anything involving New York City police,” Mr. Lynch said in an interview with THE CHIEF-LEADER. “I don’t stick my arm into the UFT, nor should he be reaching into the ranks of police officers.”

Mullins: He Should Resign

“He should step down,” said of Mr. Mulgrew Edward D. Mullins, president of the Sergeants’ Benevolent Association. “He’s totally aligned with all the wrong issues.”

“The UFT is aligning themselves with extremists like Al Sharpton,” said Michael J. Palladino, president of the Detective’s Endowment Association.

All three leaders had harsh words for Mr. Sharpton.

After several days of silence, Mr. Mulgrew spoke to THE CHIEF-LEADER the day before the march. “This is not an anti-cop rally; in fact it’s the opposite,” he said, describing it as an effort to support both police and community at the same time. “We were trying to do something that had never been done before,” he said.

“We were very adamant about being open, honest, transparent and respectful of police at the same time,” he said, but the police unions “didn’t want to hear it.” He accused Mr. Lynch of “fear-mongering,” with “constant attacks on myself and my union.”

He said police unions have a different relationship with Mr. Sharpton than the UFT does. “When Teachers were being attacked all these years, Sharpton was on his national TV show saying this has to stop,” he said. The UFT, he said, has a long history of participation in the civil-rights movement.

Educators who disapproved of the sponsorship were urging union members to wear NYPD shirts on the first day of school in a show of support for the Police Department.

A posting on the union’s Facebook page said the march “will be an opportunity to show the rest of the country that New York City is united in its belief in justice for all.” Hundreds of commenters disagreed.

‘A March of Hate’

“This isn’t a march of unity—this is a march of hate against the NYPD,” wrote Christopher Wallace.

“The UFT has no place in this fight,” wrote Bill McCarthy.

“We don’t support a union who tells us to march in ‘unity’ with the biggest racist on the planet!” wrote Kathy Strauss.

“Maybe you should focus less on embarrassing your membership with this race-baiting nonsense, and more on getting a little more than five years of zeros at the bargaining table,” wrote Peach Doc.

One member posted instructions on how to cancel the UFT’s Committee on Political Education deduction from paychecks. The COPE deduction is voluntary and separate from union dues.

The march drew more than 2,500 participants, according to police estimates, and remained peaceful. No arrests were reported. “Do not undermine the family’s fight for justice,” Mr. Sharpton said in his speech. “They want you to act up so they can act like Eric was acting up.” Other speakers included Esaw Garner, Mr. Garner’s widow, and Kadiatou Diallo, mother of Amadou Diallo, who was mistakenly killed by police hunting a rapist in 1999.

“We told the Mayor and everybody, they must reform police,” Mr. Sharpton said. “This is about solutions. But let me tell you something: you cannot do it without holding accountable those that break the law. Now, either a chokehold is illegal or it’s not. If it’s illegal, then deal with it. If you won’t deal with it, then you’re making it legal.”

He did say, “We are not against the police.”

Mr. Lynch said he spoke with Mr. Mulgrew early last week and “I voiced my displeasure at his getting involved in something that has nothing to do with the Teachers.”

He pointed to blowback from UFT members. “Teachers’ union members do not support it,” he said. “We are gratified that New York City Teachers are against their union pulling this stunt.”

‘He Likes Stirring the Pot’

Mr. Lynch said he was particularly unhappy with Mr. Sharpton’s participation in the event. “Sharpton’s goal is never to start a dialogue, or teach the community to understand police, or bring the police and the communities together,” he said. “His role is always self-serving, always to stir the pot, always on the shoulders of police officers.”

Mr. Mullins called him “king of the bottom-feeders.”

Mr. Lynch said it was ironic that the UFT was calling for a rush to judgment in the Garner case when one of the major roles of unions is defending due process. What the UFT should do, he said, was withdraw from sponsorship of the rally and call for the investigations to take their course.

“How would he like it if police officers lined up with the activists who oppose his efforts to shield bad Teachers and undermine effective charter schools?” Mr. Lynch wrote in a letter to the New York Post. “He has already colluded with the administration to saddle his members with a substandard contract — rather than continuing to curry favor with politicians and Al Sharpton, he should try standing up for his members and the children of New York City.

‘Marching Against Police’

Mr. Palladino noted, “There’s a countless number of encounters each and every day when the police and public cross paths with a minuscule amount of controversy,” he said. “For a union to march against police in this case, it’s painting all the encounters with the same brush. If one Teacher has a bad encounter with a student in a school, should the NYPD paint all Teachers with the same broad brush?”

He added, “You expect it from Al Sharpton because his motive is to line his pockets with taxpayer money.”

“I was certainly shocked in 2006 when the UFT marched against the Police Department during the Bell case,” he recalled. In an earlier statement, he said, “Teachers’ union leadership marched alongside Sharpton, with the Bloods and Crips, during the Bell case. I imagine most educators would be embarrassed by Mulgrew’s actions.”

Lesser Role by UFT Then

Mr. Palladino was referring to the fatal shooting of Sean Bell and the wounding of two companions by several officers on a street near a notorious Queens club after a Detective thought one of the men was reaching for a gun. All three were unarmed. The officer who initiated the gunfire, Det. Gescard F. Isnora, was fired by Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly several years after his acquittal along with two other cops by a Queens Supreme Court Justice. The march, also led by Mr. Sharpton, took place in December 2006.

A blogger at, who identifies himself or herself as a math Teacher and UFT chapter leader who lives in The Bronx, posted at the time, “Union President Randi Weingarten was involved with the organizers, announced she was attending, and initiated a discussion—but did not attempt to get the union to endorse the action.” The blogger said that in “the charged political atmosphere,” an endorsement discussion would have been “divisive.”

“Without law and order there is no education,” Mr. Mullins said. “...What I find disturbing is it’s a person who’s representing the people in our education system is aligning himself with overriding the judicial system...I think it goes against everything you stand for.”

Says Contract’s Bad, Too

He cited what he called the “terrible contract” Mr. Mulgrew recently agreed to and the UFT leader’s defense of teachers in so-called rubber rooms, many of whom are assigned there because of discipline problems. “Should I be defending drug-dealing cops?” he asked.

Mr. Mullins said he could not think of a time when one union offended others in this fashion. A spokesman for Harry Nespoli, president of the Uniformed Sanitation Workers and chairman of the Municipal Labor Committee, said, “The MLC works collaboratively on areas of common concern among unions, but does not typically choose sides or mediate disputes between individual members.”

This feud will only intensify if the march becomes a forum for police-bashing.