AFT’s Convention Results in Bold New Agenda
At the AFT virtual convention in July, delegates passed bold resolutions to confront the crises our country is facing in healthcare and the economy and its long overdue reckoning with racism. To see the full set of resolutions, visit aft.org/about/resolutions.
Reimagining Our Society, Supporting a Green New Deal, and Electing Joe Biden
Among the most inspirational resolutions is “Reimagining Our Society and Rewriting the Rules to Enable Opportunity and Justice for All,” which lays out the enormous challenges made worse by a president who flouts democratic norms and the rule of law. The resolution calls for the AFT’s work to focus on envisioning “a more just and vibrant society and democracy” by following 15 essential principles, including access to high-quality healthcare, the cancellation of all student debt, a fair tax system, and ensuring the right of workers to collectively bargain. Delegates also passed a separate resolution supporting a Green New Deal, which combines strategies to tackle climate change, economic inequality, and environmental racism. And, to bring this new vision for a better, more equitable, and greener America to life, delegates passed a resolution endorsing Joe Biden for president. “This is not simply about defeating Donald Trump,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “We need a president who will help change course so this country is a place of fairness, opportunity, and hope. Biden will be that president.” Read the resolutions here, here, and here.
Enough of Police Brutality
Delegates passed a resolution whose one-word title says it all: “Enough.” The resolution, which opposes police brutality and demands police accountability, names George Floyd and dozens of other victims of police violence. It builds on a groundbreaking resolution the AFT executive council passed in June, “Confronting Racism and in Support of Black Lives,” which lays out 19 commitments to combat systemic racism and violence against Black people, including the separation of school safety from policing and police forces. The convention resolution “Enough” also affirms that the AFT and its affiliates will advocate for federal, state, and local legislation that imposes strict police accountability. The resolution calls for removing police officers from schools; expanding first responders to include public health officials, social workers, mental health professionals, and related experts; and requiring independent community oversight boards and human rights commissions. The resolution commits the AFT and its affiliates to mentor members of color and other traditionally underrepresented groups for leadership; make anti-racist and anti-oppression training for all members a principal goal of the unions; and calls on all unions, particularly law enforcement unions, to do the same. Read the resolutions here and here.
Elevating Public Schools
Years of disinvestment in public education have led to overcrowded classrooms, deteriorating school buildings, and outdated books, materials, and technology. COVID-19 has not only heightened the challenges many students already face in their daily lives, such as food scarcity and unsafe housing, but also increased the inequities of the digital divide. Delegates passed a resolution that envisions an opportunity to “move toward reopening school buildings and continuing American public education—not as it is today or as it was in the past but as it can be.” The resolution urges AFT affiliates to mobilize members and unite with their communities to win more equitable distribution of education funds and to be more proactive in planning for returning to school buildings by collaborating on programming, space, operations, staff deployment, and scheduling. The resolution sets a goal to establish 25,000 community schools across the country, so students and families can easily access health and social services. And it commits the AFT to work to address the digital divide by collaborating with internet/cable providers and by advocating for greater investment in technology in schools and equitable access online. Read the resolution here.
Continuing the Fight to Protect DACA
Since it was established in 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program has allowed recipients to attend college, start careers, and put down roots in the only country they’ve ever known, free from fear of deportation. The AFT was an original plaintiff with the NAACP challenging the Trump administration’s attempt to end DACA. On June 18, the Supreme Court denied the Trump administration’s attempt to end DACA—a victory for the immigrant rights movement and the nearly 800,000 people, including many AFT members, who moved to the United States as children. In defiance of the ruling, the Trump administration recently declared that it will not accept new DACA applications and will only grant one-year extensions to current beneficiaries “on a case-by-case basis.” The AFT resolution condemns Donald Trump’s authoritarian contempt for the Supreme Court’s ruling that reinstated DACA and demands full restoration of DACA now. Read the resolution here.
Supporting Transgender, Nonbinary, and Gender-Nonconforming Workers
Despite a landmark Supreme Court victory in June forbidding employers to fire transgender, nonbinary, or gender-nonconforming workers, these workers contend with discriminatory legislation in many states and often face discrimination in the workplace. As a result, convention delegates passed a resolution committing the AFT to work collaboratively to compile a list of best practices that locals have implemented in defense of transgender, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming workers. It also requires the AFT to compile a list of existing protections in the workplace, housing, and everyday life. The AFT will disseminate these lists as part of its efforts to engage locals in guiding and advocating for the rights of transgender, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming workers. Read the resolution here.
Opposition to Active Shooter Drills
While “active shooter” drills seek to prepare students and school staff in the event of a school shooting, they can be traumatic for all involved. These drills may be announced or unannounced, and the experiences of AFT members across the country show that they can have long-lasting adverse effects on those who endure them. There is no evidence to support the idea that active shooter drills will save lives, and such drills destroy the school environment as a safe haven. Delegates passed a resolution to oppose the practice of any form of active shooter drill that includes firing blank ammunition, using fake blood, simulating death, or any other potentially traumatizing actions. Read the resolution here.
Contingent Faculty: A Survey and a Show of Support
A report from the AFT this spring shows the harsh economic reality facing millions of contingent and adjunct faculty. An Army of Temps: AFT 2020 Adjunct Faculty Quality of Work/Life Report summarizes the results of a survey of contingent faculty at both public and private, two- and four-year institutions. Of the more than 3,000 respondents to the survey, one-third earn less than $25,000 per year and only 15 percent can comfortably cover basic expenses each month. The AFT is the largest union of contingent workers; out of 240,000 higher education members, 85,000 are contingent faculty and 35,000 are graduate employees. According to the report, the COVID-19 crisis has made their work even more precarious given the uncertainty around college enrollment. To advocate for them, delegates passed a resolution committing the AFT to support legislation for contingent faculty to be included, enfranchised, and compensated in shared governance work—without regard to their part-time status. Roughly 73 percent of faculty positions are off the tenure track, according to the American Association of University Professors’ 2018 “Data Snapshot: Contingent Faculty in US Higher Ed,” which noted that “these are insecure, unsupported positions with little job security and few protections for academic freedom.” Contingent faculty are more likely to be women and people of color, and are more likely to mentor students, said delegate Mia McIver, president of University Council-AFT, which represents non-senate faculty and librarians of the University of California. Read the full report here and the resolution here.