The AFT Convention 2018: We care. We fight. We show up. We vote.
Thousands of members of the American Federation of Teachers from across the nation gathered in Pittsburgh from July 12-16, 2018, at the 2018 National Convention. Joined by ten fellow members of AFT-Oregon who served as delegates or alternates, we accomplished a lot of important work and activism while getting inspired for what's next.
AFT President Randi Weingarten
Setting the Agenda and Direction of the Union
The way forward for unions in the face of attacks is to engage members and involve community around issues that matter—safe communities and welcoming, well-funded public schools; affordable healthcare and higher education; good wages, a secure retirement, and a voice at work and in our democracy; decency and fairness, and fighting hatred and bigotry; and fighting for family values and a better America. During the committee meetings and business portions of the convention, delegates debated and approved dozens of important issues that will set our path moving forward.
AFT-Oregon's resolution "In Support of Sanctuary Schools and Campuses" passed unanimously. AFT-Oregon Delegate and CGE, Local 6069 member Sami Al-AbdRabbuh spoke forcefully in support of the resolution. Shortly after, Louise Currin, the President of AFT-Oregon Retirees, Local 8035-R, spoke in favor of retirement security for all and told the delegates of our Oregon legislation that offered a plan for retirement contributions from many previously non-participating employers.
Delegates Melody Hansen and Debbie Langworthy, both of HCU, Local 4671, attended info sessions for the Student Debt Clinics, which have become a popular mainstay of AFT programming. (Stay tuned for future Student Debt Clinics in Oregon.) Additionally, a resolution to condemn predatory actions of student loan servicer Navient passed.
President Rives participated in numerous affiliates and caucus meetings, including the AFT Adjunct Faculty Caucus meeting where participants discussed organizing strategies for adjuncts.
We Care. We Fight. We Show Up. We Vote.
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders
Delegates heard from many state and national leaders who stand with the union. Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Bernie Sanders, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and many more. Delegates also got fired up and ready to go on day two of the convention thanks to AFT-Oregon Alternate and PCCFFAP, Local 2277 member, Heidi Edwards.
Delegates were also encouraged to run for office. The protests and walkouts across the country this past year have led to a historic level of educators who are running for office. Nearly 300 AFT members are jumping into the political arena, a sign “that we are pushing back against austerity measures, public school closings and cuts to vital public services,” said AFT Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson.If you want to learn how to run for office, please sign up to attend the Oregon Labor Candidate School, which is now accepting applications.
Convention participants also took to the streets to demand action. Nearly a thousand convention delegates, parents, students and community allies participated in the March for Equitable Funding of Public Schools. At stops along the way, AFT leaders, community partners, Parkland, Florida shooting survivors, and elected officials spoke to the crowd. Ensuring that our schools have adequate and equitable funding and resources, AFT President Weingarten said, “is about showing that we walk the walk for our kids. They are our future, and they will be our salvation.”
Solidarity Forever We know we can’t do it alone. That’s why the convention featured some incredible moments of standing together in solidarity with our cousins in Oregon's fellow AFT affiliates, fellow labor unions, and community allies. Together with AFT President Randi Weingarten, AFSCME President Lee Saunders, NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia and SEIU President Mary Kay Henry provided fiery inspiration for activists to keep caring, fighting and showing up for workers everywhere. We also stood with courageous undocumented activists, Puerto Rico, and heroes who helped students stand up against gun violence.
Our Path Forward: Take Action While wealthy funders hope the Janus decision will encourage members to “drop” the union, it is clear that so-far the outcome has galvanized members to join and recommit to the AFT in record numbers. We are finding hope in the darkness. Although we have a lot of work to do and it won’t be easy, together we will fight, we will show up, and we will remain committed to our core values that corporations and billionaires seek to destroy.