The AFT played a prominent role at Netroots Nation, an annual gathering of progressive political activists, held this year in Minneapolis June 16-19.
AFT president Randi Weingarten was part of a high-powered opening keynote session that included, among others, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and former Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold. A video shown before Weingarten spoke featured some of the more humorous political commentary on the recent attacks on teachers and other public employees, as well as an introduction to the AFT's Making a Difference Every Day campaign. "I've seen teachers and firefighters and nurses belittled and demonized because they had the gall to say that they wanted a decent shot at the American dream," Weingarten said. Our opponents, she added, "invent wedge issues to create schisms in the progressive movement—like saying all teacher unions care about is bad teachers."
At a time when shared sacrifice is cited as an appropriate solution to our problems, Weingarten asked, "Where is the shared responsibility when an entire corporation pays less in taxes than one custodian at the University of Wisconsin?" By the way, she continued, "Where are all those new jobs [elected officials] promised in their campaigns? All we see are power grabs and paybacks, the pulling back of the safety net and disinvestment in our public schools."
The AFT also organized a workshop titled "Bullies and the Blogosphere: Creating Safe Spaces in Our Schools and Online." The panel discussion, which included Weingarten, AFT vice president Laura Rico from the ABC Federation of Teachers in California, Julie Blaha from Anoka Hennepin Education Minnesota and other speakers, focused on the need to recognize and combat bullying in our schools, online and in our communities. For more information, check out the AFT's "See a Bully, Stop a Bully: Make a Difference" campaign.
Not surprisingly, events in Wisconsin were a topic of much discussion at the meeting. One session on "Reclaiming Our Middle Class, State by State" included Alex Hanna, co-president of the AFT-affiliated Teaching Assistants’ Association at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His local was among the lead organizations in the fight in Wisconsin against budget cuts and attacks on collective bargaining rights.
Related to the fights in Wisconsin, Ohio and elsewhere to maintain workers' voice on the job, the AFT raised money for the labor solidarity fund by selling our popular "Those Who Can, Teach …" buttons. [Dan Gursky, Leslie Getzinger]
June 22, 2011