On a sunny autumn afternoon, AFT leaders kicked off the “#AFTvotes—What Kids and Communities Need” bus tour at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay with a press conference advocating for continued funding for public education and urging people to get out and vote for elected officials who will work toward that goal. Specifically, speakers urged the students and community members in attendance to re-elect Gov. Tony Evers and state Rep. Kristina Shelton and to support state representative candidate Hannah Beauchamp-Pope, all of whom spoke about their commitment to the public good.
Evers talked about the education funding he secured despite the pandemic, contrasting that to his opponent’s proposal to cut public education funding by 40 percent. For that reason and others, said AFT President Randi Weingarten, “we have to do everything in our power to make sure that Gov. Evers is re-elected, … that we bring Wisconsin forward, not backward, with real policymakers and problem-solvers who … bring people together.”
To underscore their commitment to ensure students have what they need to succeed, the AFT and AFT-Wisconsin also donated $2,500 each and 1,500 hygiene kits to UW-Green Bay’s Campus Cupboard and Clothes Closet.
The event was the official kickoff to a cross-country, multi-city bus tour to get out the vote and highlight the stark choice confronting a nation divided between hope and fear, aspiration and anxiety, and freedom and autocracy. Union members will rally at dozens of community events, including book giveaways, roundtables, canvassing and door-knocking, to support candidates fighting for freedom and democracy, lower costs, affordable healthcare and investments in great public schools—rather than those trying to ban books, censor history, cut Medicare and Social Security, and let corporations gouge the public.
The tour will continue for 20 days in at least 10 states and 25 cities through Election Day, Nov. 8. Stops will include Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York.
“This November,” said Weingarten, “so much is on the ballot: our democracy and our freedoms, public education, healthcare, Medicare and Social Security, safety from gun violence, and economic security. Who is going to help solve this, and who will make it worse?”
As extremist politicians try to dissemble and divide, AFT members are focused on what kids and communities need to recover and thrive. The tour will elevate the work they do every day to make a difference in the lives of kids, patients and communities.
“This is an election of contrasts,” Weingarten said. “Who is fighting for democracy? Who is tackling the concerns that keep people up at night? On the other hand, who prefers to stoke resentment, anger and fear—rather than find solutions to our biggest problems?”
During the bus tour, speakers will drive home the message that everyone in America should have the freedom to pursue a better life, with justice and dignity guaranteed. And with early voting in full swing, they will make it clear that it is vital that we vote, and that we get our communities out to vote too.
“Together, we are fighting for the freedom to live in a democracy, to have a voice in that democracy, and—for each of us, particularly our kids—to have a pathway to the middle class,” Weingarten said.
The bus will travel from west to east, concluding in New York City on Nov. 8. Weingarten will be joined by AFT Executive Vice President Evelyn DeJesus and AFT Secretary-Treasurer Fedrick Ingram at multiple stops. All three AFT officers have traveled to numerous states already this fall, including Alaska, Florida, Kansas, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Texas. Bus tour events will be broadcast live across the union’s social media channels.
“The truth is, although you hear a lot about the divisions polarizing our country, Americans really are united by a powerful bond: We all want a better life for ourselves and our families,” said Weingarten.
“The most important right we have is the right to vote, and that is why, over the next three weeks, we will work every hour of every day to get the vote out.”
The bus tour schedule is as follows:
Oct. 19 – Green Bay, Wis.
Oct. 20 – St. Paul, Minn.
Oct. 21 – Minneapolis, Minn.
Oct. 22 – Milwaukee, Wis.
Oct. 23 – St. Louis, Mo.
Oct. 24 – Peoria, Ill., and Urbana-Champaign, Ill.
Oct. 26 – Anderson, Ind.
Oct. 26 – Albuquerque, N.M. (no bus)
Oct. 27 – Cincinnati, Ohio
Oct. 28 – Atlanta, Ga. (no bus)
Oct. 29 – Taylor, Mich., and Detroit metro area
Oct. 30 – Toledo, Ohio
Nov. 1 – Cleveland, Ohio
Nov. 2 – Pittsburgh, Pa.
Nov. 4 – Scranton, Pa.
Nov. 5 – Philadelphia, Pa.
Nov. 6 – Connecticut/New York
Nov. 7 – Long Island, N.Y.
Nov. 8 – New York, N.Y.