Ann Lester, an AFT member in Volusia County, Fla., has worked 30 years as a special education paraprofessional and still needs to hold two jobs just to make ends meet. Now, Lester has a chance to have a candidate “walk a day in her shoes” and answer her questions directly, as part of the process to receive the coveted AFT endorsement for president.
And so do other AFT members, thanks to the new endorsement process that President Randi Weingarten announced on a telephone town hall March 19 to Lester and 30,000 other members, supporters and community activists. The AFT’s 2020 presidential endorsement process is designed to ensure unprecedented member input and engagement in the democratic decision of who will receive the union’s support.
“We must elect a president who believes in livable wages; public education; higher education; healthcare as a right, not a privilege,” said Weingarten on the call. “And, we must have a process that our members believe in, that is credible, authentic and transparent.”
Weingarten urged the town hall participants to share the news with their colleagues, family members and others, and to get actively involved now in the endorsement process by going to AFTvotes.org, which currently features a survey asking what issues members want the presidential candidates to address. The website will be updated continuously with actions, news and opportunities to provide input and feedback.
Earlier this year, the AFT executive council unanimously approved a resolution on the 2020 presidential endorsement process rooted in member engagement. New and improved initiatives that build on previous endorsement processes include:
- Increased member engagement, input and feedback using new tools and technology, including national town halls, Facebook Live and text messaging;
- Direct candidate engagement with AFT members at live events, including meeting members at the workplace, listening to their concerns and addressing the issues they face daily;
- Affiliate and member engagement with presidential campaigns prior to the AFT’s endorsement of a candidate—given the number of candidates already in the race—to energize and strengthen the our ability to influence the debate; and
- Coalescence of affiliates and members, and dedication our resources, if, after an extensive process, the AFT executive council endorses a candidate for president.
Weingarten emphasized the final step, saying, “If or when it is time for us to get together and make a nationwide endorsement, we must do everything we can to help that person win—and it starts tonight!”
Several AFT leaders and members praised the new endorsement process, including Fred Albert, president of AFT-West Virginia, who said, “This feels so right. I’m excited about campaign 2020.”
“The AFT endorsement process puts the power exactly where it should be—in the hands of the members,” noted AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who also participated in the town hall.
Throughout the endorsement process, AFT members and leaders will work together to get to know the candidates and look for a leader who shares our values, stands up for the public institutions where we work, and is committed to helping all of us achieve a better life, a voice at work and power in our democracy.
To participate in the endorsement process and provide feedback, go to AFTvotes.org frequently for updates on events and actions. The more involved our members are and the stronger our collective voice, the more effective our political role becomes.