AFT members from all over the country helped make history on Jan. 21 when they joined the Women's March on Washington, and related events in every state, in what's being called the largest protest in U.S. history.
In Washington, D.C., alone, more than 1,200 AFT members arrived at the union's national headquarters via charter buses from all along the Eastern seaboard. Thousands more attended the D.C. march on their own, flying in from as far as the West Coast and driving in from as far as Illinois.
AFT headquarters, which is just a few blocks from the main rally stage, served as a sanctuary station throughout the day—although with mild temperatures and a festive atmosphere, no real sanctuary was needed, except as a hub for AFT activists to meet, hug, snack, trade posters and march off in waves for the rally on the National Mall. Members were assisted by more than 50 AFT staff members and friends who served as volunteers and dozens who accompanied the marchers as AFT marshals, including a team of women from the roller derby in Baltimore.
In addition to the AFT marchers in Washington, the union was represented in Atlanta; Chicago; Helena, Mont.; Los Angeles; Miami; New York; and San Francisco, to name a few. The AFT women's rights committee has taken a serious forward stance on this movement and intends to remain fully engaged.
AFT President Randi Weingarten was among the speakers in Washington, an impressive array of activists from every sector of American progressive politics and culture. (AFT Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson took part in the D.C. march, and Executive Vice President Mary Cathryn Ricker participated in Minnesota.)
"Your being here today shows the power of collective action — the same power that is at the core of labor unions," Weingarten said. "Collective activism is the best check and balance against acts of xenophobia, Islamophobia, racism, homophobia, sexism and misogyny. It creates voice. It's what drives us toward justice and opens up opportunity. It creates hope."
"So, let's see today's determination, today's solidarity, as a new beginning," she said. "Let's come together behind our common purpose of freedom, opportunity and justice for all. Let's march for our future. Let's march for our children. Let's march for our communities. Let's march for our values. Let's march for ourselves."
[Annette Licitra, Dan Gursky]