AFT 2014 Convention Update
AFT President Randi Weingarten kicked off the AFT convention July 11 by outlining a bold plan to both fight back and fight forward to reclaim the promise of America and create economic and educational opportunity for all. In her keynote to more than 3,500 delegates, Weingarten outlined the coordinated attack facing working people, unions, public education and public services—by those who starve public institutions, criticize public institutions, demonize workers and unions, marginalize those who fight back, and peddle private alternatives. The centerpiece of Weingarten’s speech focused on the need to reclaim the promise by being solution-driven, community-engaged, member-mobilized and “badass”—a term gaining currency with educators frustrated with attacks on public education and the current direction of education policy. While acknowledging that the promise of America has been more an aspiration than a realization for many Americans throughout our history, Weingarten said that “what’s been enduring and unifying is a vision of America based on a foundation of democracy and economic opportunity.”
Every AFT convention provides an opportunity to look back at the past two years, and especially the challenges the union has faced and the opportunities that lie ahead. Two great ways learn more about how the AFT is fighting back and fighting forward are by reading the 2012-2014 “State of the Union” and watching this video that was shown before President Weingarten’s speech.
Day two of the convention, with general sessions highlighting the themes of fighting back, growing stronger and fighting forward with community, was filled with guest speakers and debates on important resolutions and constitutional amendments. Speakers talked about fighting back in Chicago, New York and Philadelphia; veteran civil rights activist Mark Levy joined 10-year-old Asean Johnson to address the need to continue the struggle; Illinois home care worker Traci Coney vowed to fight back against the Harris v. Quinn Supreme Court decision; and a panel updated delegates on the Reconnecting McDowell partnership.
Day three of the convention, with general sessions devoted to politics and solution-driven unionism, was packed with spirited debates and the passage of important resolutions on topics such as fighting back against attacks on our union, fixing the poor implementation of Common Core, and moving toward an accountability system focused on support and improvement. Other highlights included the announcement of Democrats for Public Education, the moving immigration success story of two sisters, and updates on Share My Lesson and First Book.
AFT vows to fight back against attacks on unions.
AFT convention delegates unanimously passed a special order of business to fight back against attacks on unions and teachers, such as Vergara v. California and Harris v. Quinn. The special order characterizes these lawsuits as “contributing to an escalating and engineered imbalance in our democracy.” Amended from the floor, the order was revised to include strong language on Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who publicly supported the Vergara decision. It derides his promotion of “misguided and ineffective policies on deprofessionalization, privatization and test obsession.” The order calls on President Obama to “implement a secretary improvement plan that will be based upon standing up for public education, supporting teachers and all school workers, inspiring parents and the public to join us in creating the public schools we want and deserve, and leading with us in reclaiming the promise of public education.”
Delegates at the AFT convention voted overwhelmingly to re-elect AFT President Randi Weingarten to a third term on July 13. The vote affirms the AFT’s commitment to solution-driven, community-engaged and member-empowered unionism that focuses on uniting union members, the people they serve and the communities in which they live. Also re-elected to lead the union was AFT Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson, who has held that position since 2011. Joining Weingarten and Johnson as the AFT’s new executive vice president is the president of the Saint Paul Federation of Teachers, Mary Cathryn Ricker. Ricker replaces Francine Lawrence, who plans to retire this year. Ricker has led AFT Local 28 since 2005 and has been a member of the AFT K-12 Teachers program and policy council since 2006. She is a National Board Certified middle school English teacher who has taught in classrooms all across the country and internationally.