AFT Convention Daily: Friday, July 15, 2022

Elizabeth Warren stokes the fight for kids—and against student debt

Sen. Elizabeth Warren gave a rousing speech on day two of the AFT convention, fiercely advocating for the top issues she champions alongside AFT leaders: sensible gun safety legislation; adequate public school resources; trust and respect for educators who teach the truth; and one of her top priorities, student debt relief. With student debt burdening millions of Americans, some more than others, she said this is not only an economic matter, it is also a racial and gender justice issue.

Amazon, Starbucks and new frontiers in labor organizing

Friday morning’s electrifying session focused on new frontiers in organizing, from Amazon to Starbucks to green jobs. It featured AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler, Amazon Labor Union President Chris Smalls, and Starbucks organizers Richard Bensinger, Kylah Clay and Jordie Adams. With Americans’ approval of labor unions at its highest point since 1965, the moment is now. “If we don’t step up, who will?” asked Shuler.

Dr. Jill Biden on the importance of teaching

Excitement ran high as AFT President Randi Weingarten escorted first lady Dr. Jill Biden onto the stage at the AFT convention in Boston. With regard to public education, there is no more crucial person in this administration than Dr. Biden, Weingarten said, because she sees and cares about the work lives of educators. “We’re big fans of your husband,” Weingarten said. “But can I be really honest here? We’re really, really, really big fans of you.”

AAUP signing

Building power: AAUP and AFT formalize affiliation

The convention hall erupted in cheers as AFT President Randi Weingarten and American Association of University Professors President Irene Mulvey signed a formal agreement on Friday, creating a powerful force for higher education advocacy. The alliance comes just in time to address pressing issues, including threats to academic freedom, disinvestment in higher education and the contingent faculty crisis.

Fighting gun violence will take all of us

RuQuan Brown, Sarah Lerner and David Hogg, educator and student activists on the frontlines of ending gun violence, joined AFT President Randi Weingarten at the AFT convention to discuss this public health emergency. Each panelist knows firsthand the devastation gun violence brings, and their conversation was both sobering and energizing, offering attendees concrete steps they can take to end gun violence.

Panel discusses strategies to prioritize patients over profit

Nurses and health professionals have always envisioned a patient-first healthcare system, but the industry has become increasingly profit-driven. AFT President Randi Weingarten was joined by a panel of health professionals on July 15 to discuss how unions can construct a healthcare system that puts patient care and worker safety over corporate profits. With the increase in burnout and moral injury, one panelist noted, “You have to take care of you in order to be able to take care of somebody else.”

Resolutions passed on organizing, ending violence, and protecting higher education and reproductive rights

On Friday, delegates got down to business, passing seven resolutions. Three came from the Organizing and Collective Bargaining Committee: supporting the PRO Act to protect the right to organize; advocating for legislation and resources to end school and community violence and to support youth who have experienced trauma; and establishing and enhancing affiliates’ health and safety committees to improve conditions for all workers and the communities they serve. Three more resolutions emerged from the Higher Education Committee: fighting for higher education, including defending institutions’ missions, protecting academic freedom, and addressing the staffing and affordability crises; calling on the U.S. Department of Education to investigate contingent faculty compensation; and supporting the expansion of FAST Funds so more students have access to emergency aid. The final resolution of the day came from the Women’s Rights Committee, demanding protection of reproductive freedom and comprehensive reproductive healthcare.

Worth checking out

This daily update is produced by the AFT communications department. Photos by Pamela Wolfe and Michael Campbell.