One of the bombshell moments of Tuesday night’s Democratic debate came when Sen. Elizabeth Warren called out former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg for telling a pregnant employee to “kill it.” Bloomberg fiercely denied the charge, leading debate moderator Gayle King to follow up: “He told a woman to get an abortion. What evidence do you have of that?”
Warren’s answer was simple: “Her own words.” We shouldn’t need more than that. But, as it happens, there’s also a witness.
“I remember she had been telling some of her girlfriends that she was pregnant,” former Bloomberg employee David Zielenziger told The Washington Post. “And Mike came out and I remember he said, ‘Are you going to kill it?’ And that stopped everything. And I couldn’t believe it.”
Women should be believed in cases of she said-he said. But that’s not what this is, no matter how many times Bloomberg insists, “I never said that.” No matter how disbelieving MSNBC’s Chris Matthews was, after the debate, that “the former mayor of New York said that to a pregnant employee”—to which Warren replied, “A pregnant employee sure said he did. Why shouldn’t I believe her?”
Bloomberg said something else in that part of the debate that requires attention. Referring to Warren’s own story of pregnancy discrimination as a young teacher, he said, “For the record, if she was a teacher in New York City, she would never have had that problem. We treated our teachers the right way, and the unions will tell you exactly that.”
How interesting. Leo Casey, a former vice president of the New York City teachers union during Bloomberg’s time as mayor, strongly and swiftly rebutted that claim on Facebook.
”In the course of my duties, I visited a high school in the Bronx where the staff recited for me a long list of sexual harassment at the hands of the principal—a secretary, a guidance counselor, teachers, even a parent had reported sexual harassment at his hands,” Casey wrote. “When the students learned what had happened to the mother of one of their number, they had handed out leaflets condemning him outside of the school, and the principal had suspended them in retaliation.”
Casey brought the issue of this abusive principal to “meeting after meeting with our counterparts in the Department of Education hierarchy,” he said. “We need more information, I was told. I brought more information. We need new cases of harassment, I was told. I brought new cases. A major NYC tabloid published a news story on the sexual harassment. And still nothing happened.”
Union officials up to its president pressed for the principal to be disciplined. But Casey “was told that Chancellor Klein”—Bloomberg’s schools chancellor for eight years—“would not act on the complaints, because the principal had told him that the union was out to get him and that was all the Chancellor needed to hear to protect him.”
THAT is what a former union leader in Michael Bloomberg’s New York City has to say about how teachers were treated. For sure, the union had improved the treatment of pregnant teachers long before Bloomberg took office, but “The teachers union would not let me treat pregnant teachers how I treated pregnant employees in my business” is perhaps not the strongest defense.