WASHINGTON—On Saturday, the executive council of the American Federation of Teachers voted overwhelmingly to endorse Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary for president of the United States. The AFT is the first national union to endorse a candidate in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary.
"In vision, in experience and in leadership, Hillary Clinton is the champion working families need in the White House," said AFT President Randi Weingarten. "Hillary Clinton is a tested leader who shares our values, is supported by our members, and is prepared for a tough fight on behalf of students, families and communities. That fight defines her campaign and her career. In Arkansas, Hillary fought to expand access to early childhood education and care. As first lady, she fought for the right to affordable, high-quality healthcare and helped win that right for our youngest citizens. As senator, she fought for education funding and workers' rights, and she defended public service workers who came to our nation's defense on Sept. 11. And as secretary of state, she promoted democracy throughout the world, lifting up the worth and dignity of all people—men and women, gay and straight."
Weingarten continued, "Hillary Clinton, a product of public schools herself, believes in the promise of public education. From early childhood learning through higher education, she sees how that promise can create real opportunity for kids, building a much-needed bridge to the middle class. Hillary understands that to reclaim the promise of public education, policymakers need to work with educators and their unions. She's ready to work with us to confront the issues facing children and their families today, including poverty, wage stagnation, income inequality and lack of opportunity. Hillary is the leader we need to help us reclaim the promise of public education and, indeed, of America."
Upon learning of the union's endorsement, Clinton said, "For nearly a century, the American Federation of Teachers has worked to expand opportunity for the people and communities they serve. I'm honored to have the support of AFT's members and leaders, and proud to stand with them to unleash the potential of every American."
Clinton continued, "I know from my own family that teachers have the power to change lives. We need to make sure every child has access to a quality public education and teachers with the tools to help them succeed. Our country's future depends on the education we give all our children — and giving them the best means working with the teachers and school personnel who help shape their futures each day."
As in past elections, the AFT's 1.6 million members will be a powerful organizing force behind our endorsed candidate. Leading up to November 2016, AFT members are expected to make more than 1 million phone calls and knock on more than 500,000 doors.
The AFT's endorsement comes a month after Clinton attended an executive council meeting in Washington, D.C. At that meeting, she said, "It is just dead wrong to make teachers the scapegoats for all of society's problems. Where I come from, teachers are the solution. And I strongly believe that unions are part of the solution, too."
Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley also spoke with the executive council at that meeting. All potential and announced candidates were invited to complete a questionnaire, and those who returned the questionnaire were invited to meet with the council. No Republican candidates responded to the invitation.
The AFT has conducted a long, deliberative process to assess which candidate would best champion the issues of importance to our members, their families and communities. Members have been engaged online, through the "You Decide" website, through several telephone town halls, and through multiple surveys—reaching more than 1 million members.
Additionally, over the past few weeks, the AFT has conducted a scientific poll of our membership on the candidates and key issues. The top issues members raised were jobs and the economy and public education. Seventy-nine percent of our members who vote in Democratic primaries said we should endorse a candidate. And by more than a 3-to-1 margin, these members said the AFT should endorse Clinton.
This week, the AFT will begin its biennial TEACH conference, a gathering of thousands of educators. Weingarten will address the conference at 12:30 p.m. on Monday, with press availability to follow. Her remarks will include information about the endorsement. For more information on the TEACH conference, please email Laura Pometto at firstname.lastname@example.org.