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AFT Resolutions


WHEREAS, delegates to the 1963 AFT Convention passed a resolution declaring that the "Civil Rights March on Washington is a strong call to all Americans to join the struggle for full freedom for all" and calling on the AFT to "be represented in the March on Washington scheduled for August 28, to demonstrate in a peaceful manner on behalf of President Kennedy's entire civil rights program to provide equality in every respect for all American citizens"; and

WHEREAS, the director of the march, the legendary A. Philip Randolph, and the organizing genius behind the march, Bayard Rustin, were our union's closest friends and allies; and

WHEREAS, many AFT leaders, activists and staff worked closely with Rustin in organizing the march, including late AFT president Sandra Feldman who volunteered in the summer of 1963, Rachelle Horowitz who served as transportation coordinator and former AFT vice president Velma Hill; and many AFT members traveled to Washington to participate in the March; and

WHEREAS, the 1963 march was successful in significant measure because of the powerful alliance of civil rights organizations and unions that worked together to bring many thousands to Washington; and

WHEREAS, the 1963 march was a call for both "jobs and freedom," but half a century later the work is far from done and the need for economic, political and social justice remains strong; and

WHEREAS, the U.S. Supreme Court, by striking down Shelby County v. Holder, has effectively eviscerated the Voting Rights Act at a time when voter suppression laws across the country threaten the voting rights of the poor, people of color and the young—rights that can never be taken for granted; and

WHEREAS, numerous demands of the march were enacted in the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, but today some of the rights won in the 1960s, and even rights that were established in the New Deal in the 1930s, are under siege; and

WHEREAS, many of the other demands of the march were addressed through the programs of the Great Society, which brought us the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Head Start, the Job Corps, the Higher Education Act, Medicaid, the Food Stamp Act, the Child Nutrition Act, and many other programs designed to build communities and provide a path to prosperity. But now our members in education, public service and healthcare daily see that the richest country in the world has fallen backward and fails to provide for the most vulnerable among us—the 38 percent of African-American children, 35 percent of Latino children and 25 percent of all children who live in poverty—by underfunding and closing their schools and colleges, while the wealthiest 1 percent grow richer and richer; and

WHEREAS, the rights of working people to organize into a union and bargain collectively are under ferocious attack, as seen by the passage of so-called right-to-work legislation in the heartland of America, such as the legislation designed to cripple public sector unions in Wisconsin and elsewhere, and by the efforts of the far right to paralyze the NLRB by refusing to appoint board members; and

WHEREAS, the death of Trayvon Martin and the ensuing verdict—even respecting that a jury has spoken—reveal that the road to real justice is long and that as a country we still have not eliminated the toxic mix of discrimination, racial profiling and stand-your-ground laws that lead to tragic events, violence and death; and

WHEREAS, we clearly still need a Freedom Budget for our day similar to the one that Randolph, Rustin and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. developed after the 1963 march. This new Freedom Budget would advocate for important initiatives that are facing fierce resistance, such as:

  • Support for students, educators, schools and communities that fulfills our collective responsibility to enable individual opportunity for every child;
  • Universal early childhood education and access to child care for America's children and families;
  • Comprehensive immigration reform, with a special focus on providing a path to citizenship and access to education for the young DREAMers brought to America under circumstances beyond their control;
  • Legislation to prevent gun violence and provide mental health supports for those at risk of falling through gaps in the safety net; and
  • Job creation and job training and retraining programs; and

WHEREAS, while we've made tremendous social and racial progress over the past 50 years, leaders of the 1963 march would still be concerned about continuing inequities, such as:

  • Underfunded inner-city schools where more and more students every day are losing access to music, art, libraries, nurses, counselors, and other vital programs and staff;
  • School closings, like those in Chicago and Philadelphia where the buildings have been important and reliable community hubs for many years; such closures are occurring almost exclusively in neighborhoods where low-income and African-American and Latino families reside;
  • Student loan interest rates and public disinvestment in higher education that are creating crippling debt for our young people and their families, and threatening access to college;
  • The closing and privatization of the public institutions that many Americans depend on, such as the proposed closing of SUNY Downstate Medical Center, which is a critical lifeline for the residents of Brooklyn, N.Y.; and

WHEREAS, 50 years ago, no one organization or union could achieve such aims and aspirations alone, and the same is true today:

RESOLVED, that the AFT and its affiliates fully support the 2013 March on Washington and its organizers, by encouraging members and others to come to the nation's capital on Aug. 24 to join the call for finishing the unfinished work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., U.S. Rep. John Lewis, A. Philip Randolph and the other leaders of the 1963 march; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT rededicate itself to achieving the goals of the 1963 March on Washington, to the vision and values captured in King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech, and to its program of "jobs and freedom"; and

RESOLVED, that the Aug. 24, 2013, march be seen not as a singular event but as the continuation of a sustained effort to realize the dream of an America envisioned by those who marched 50 years ago; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT use the anniversary of the 1963 march as a springboard to strengthen partnerships and alliances that will:

  • Reclaim the promise of public education to enable individual opportunity for all children, anchor our democracy, and strengthen our economy;
  • Solidify our work with community partners and organizations, and dedicate ourselves to rebuilding communities to achieve economic, social, educational and environmental equity;
  • Educate Americans about their democratic rights;
  • Educate, mobilize and legislate to end racial profiling and discrimination and stand-your-ground laws;
  • Educate young people about their civic responsibilities to register, to vote and to be active in their communities;
  • Use the 2014 elections to put America back on the track to prosperity, good jobs, and economic and social fairness for all; and
  • Ensure equal opportunity for all Americans regardless of race, religion, ethnic background, age, gender or sexual preference.