Near the close of the AFT’s 2022 election, the union’s three national officers were honored to be re-elected and to serve along with the 43 vice presidents elected to comprise the union’s executive council.
Randi Weingarten, first elected as AFT president in 2008, thanked the delegates for entrusting her with the leadership of our 1.7 million-member union at perhaps the most challenging time for public education and the nation in our union’s history.
Weingarten called on members to seize the moment. “Think about all these resolutions that we’ve just passed. Think about the essentials that bring people together for a better life―for safe, welcoming, resourced public schools throughout the country. Well-funded colleges and universities. Respect for all our members. Respect should not just be an Aretha song. Respect should be a lived experience for our members that we serve and the communities we serve.”
“Yes, I know we are in perilous times,” she continued, but she said members must be fearless, defiant and hopeful in acting “against those extremists that want to ban books, that want to stop us from teaching honest history, that don’t want to see the gorgeous mosaic of America.”
And this fall, we must vote and get out the vote, she concluded: “Are you ready? Are you ready to reclaim the future? … So, let’s do it, AFT! Thank you very, very much.”
Before leading the national union, Weingarten served for 11 years as president of the United Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 2, in New York City. She has led the AFT’s efforts to strengthen public education for all children and to address the crisis in the teaching profession.
Since 2019, Evelyn DeJesus has served AFT members as the first Latina officer in the union’s history. A native Puertorriqueña who grew up in New York City’s Lower East Side, DeJesus is a forceful advocate for justice—undaunted and unafraid.
“Let’s be clear,” DeJesus said. “No one knows better than you just how hard the last few years have been.” Our members “have never stopped caring, fighting, voting and showing up.”
Elected as an AFT vice president in 2014, she chairs the AFT’s Latino Issues Task Force and serves as the presiding officer of the AFT Asian American and Pacific Islander and the newly created AFT LGBTQIA + task forces.
DeJesus thanked members who have recently welcomed her to their locals, including in Texas, Rhode Island, Atlanta and Puerto Rico. And she thanked our union, saying “the AFT literally saved my life.” Healthcare workers nursed her back to health when she twice had COVID-19, and public employees kept public services up and running during the height of the pandemic in New York. And, of course, it was AFT members who taught and nurtured her from grade school through grad school. “You know, mis hermanos y hermanas, I never, ever imagined in my craziest dreams that someone like me could be standing here today.”
“Remember, as you go home, each of you is a leader who has made our members’ lives better. It is time to reclaim our future, and our democracy,” DeJesus said. “Every single day, you demonstrate the deepest truth of the union movement: that together, we can accomplish so much more than we could ever achieve on our own. Thank you, and gracias a todos!”
Fedrick C. Ingram, first elected in 2020, thanked members, his family and the creator for his re-election as secretary-treasurer.
“I am deeply honored to serve as the fiduciary of this great union. And once again you have placed your trust in me,” he said, adding that it is a responsibility he does not take lightly.
Before becoming secretary-treasurer of the AFT in September 2020, Ingram was president of the 140,000-member Florida Education Association. He also has served as an AFT vice president for six years.
“AFT, through your hard work and sacrifice, together in this union, we can fulfill our dreams for a good life, for meaningful work, for voice and a vote at work,” Ingram said. “Your hard work and you, the way you give back and you keep going without complaint—these are the union members that I know.
“But we are not indestructible,” Ingram said. “We must be honored. We must be respected. And we must be paid for the work that we do each and every day. Once and for all, we need an economy that honors the dignity of our work. We must restore the standing of our labor unions that built this middle class.
“But change only happens when we demand it,” he concluded. “This is a perilous time for our country and for other democracies. But we will meet this moment. We cannot walk alone. We cannot turn back. We are stronger together.”
[Annette Licitra/photo by Michael Campbell]