09/02/2020

AFT announces newly elected leaders

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AFT convention delegates, who cast their ballots by mail, voted overwhelmingly to re-elect President Randi Weingarten, elect Fedrick Ingram as secretary-treasurer and elect Executive Vice President Evelyn DeJesus to her first full term. The results from the unprecedented election process were announced live on Sept. 1, several weeks after the union’s first virtual convention was held in July.

zoom call with new officers

During the announcement, Weingarten took a moment to thank the outgoing secretary-treasurer, Lorretta Johnson, who retired in July. “It has been a great honor for both Lorretta and myself to lead this union,” she continued, “and it is a great honor to continue to lead this union. I thank the membership and the delegates for electing this team of exceptional leaders,” which includes the 43 AFT vice presidents who were also elected.

“We are humbled by the task in front of us, and we will give it everything we’ve got,” she said. The election marks the seventh term for Weingarten, who noted that the AFT and its members have weathered many storms, and now the country faces three immediate crises: the public health crisis, worsening economic inequality and a long-overdue reckoning with racism, all made worse by Donald Trump. The union movement, and the AFT in particular, is built to confront crises like these, she said. “We don't back down. We care, we fight, we show up and we vote, despite crisis after crisis. We have thrived, we have risen, because of your work and your activism.”

Weingarten encouraged those listening in to choose community over chaos. “The AFT is marshaling our knowledge and our expertise and … fighting for safe schools on the streets, in the courts, and in coalition with parents and communities. Whatever is needed to keep you, your students, our loved ones, safe, the AFT has your back,” she said. “These are dangerous days,”  she warned. “Trailing in the polls, Trump needs chaos, violence and destruction to win re-election. That's why he is inciting it.” As newly elected leaders, said Weingarten, “Our first job … is to help elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.”

“All across this country, there is fighting back,” said Ingram, who is the outgoing president of the Florida Education Association. “It means standing up for our kids and for our communities. It means standing up for my union brothers and sisters—and with my union brothers and sisters—because I've had enough of injustice. And I know you have too,” said Ingram. “This brings me to where we are now as a country and as a democracy: It's not enough to say that we are at a critical point. We passed critical a long time ago. Donald Trump and the people around him have shown us their version of democracy and justice,” he said, noting that people are “worried about putting food on the table, paying rent and paying their healthcare bills in what is supposed to be the richest country in the world. … We must organize, we have to fight, we’ve got to win.”

DeJesus, a United Federation of Teachers vice president who has been serving as executive vice president since stepping in to replace the outgoing executive vice president in July 2019, agreed. “We are living in really difficult times. We all know what our country needs right now. We need a leader to bring the country together and to beat this virus,” said DeJesus, who noted that the Latino vote will be crucial in this election. “We’ve all heard that the road to the White House runs through the Latino community, which is why this Latina, virus or no virus, is going to be spending every minute these next 62 days energizing and mobilizing Latino voters to get rid of Donald Trump and reclaim the soul of this country.”

[Adrienne Coles]