Maybe you’ve heard the founding slogan of the AFT: “Democracy in Education; Education for Democracy.” AFT delegates brought their passion and intellect to the convention floor on Sunday as they exercised their democratic values, voting to approve the three top resolutions from our union’s Political Action/Legislation Committee.
Resolution 52: The Defense of Democracy
Given that authoritarian governments always try to suppress unions, and that “dark money” from wealthy individuals and corporations, along with gerrymandering and racial violence, all are trying to suppress the vote, AFT delegates voted to affirm the centrality of democracy and recommit our union to its defense. They affirmed our opposition to the presence of dark money, condemned attacks on American democracy by Donald Trump and the appeals of Trumpism to racial and other resentments, and resolved to defeat Trumpism.
Finally, this resolution commits the AFT to developing and using civic education, as illustrated by AFT President Randi Weingarten’s demonstration of parliamentary procedure at the start of this convention through a mock debate on the color and style of her eyeglasses.
To accomplish these goals, the AFT will join forces wherever possible with other defenders of democracy, whether they be unions, civil rights groups or other like-minded organizations.
Resolution 53: REV It Up: Register, Educate, Vote!
Right-wing plutocrats are bent on enriching themselves through tax scams for the wealthy and funding cuts for everyone else, including slashing nutrition programs for the needy, and working-class people are rising up to resist. That’s why the AFT resolved that our state federations and affiliates will engage and mobilize our 1.7 million members, their families and communities to elect pro-public education, pro-public service and pro-worker candidates in the 2018 elections. Further, delegates resolved to “REV (register, educate and vote) It Up” this fall.
Dan Montgomery (pictured above), president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers and an AFT vice president, expressed both his exasperation with low voter turnout and his hope that it will change this year. In 2014, he said, Illinois voters stayed home and, as punishment, got the anti-public service Gov. Bruce Rauner. In 2016, only 40 percent of eligible state voters turned out.
This time around, he said, we have to register every AFT member and family member and friend—Republicans, too. “They are movable when we educate them,” he said. We have to end one-party rule in this country, he added, noting that 32 states are governed by the right-wing Republican party.
“We can do better,” Montgomery said. “If we apply our brains and brawn, we can win in November.”
Resolution 59: AFT Goals for Political Endorsements
Because economic policies that promote concentration of wealth among the richest 1 percent, healthcare inflation and a broken insurance system continue to exert downward pressure on the standard of living for workers nationwide, AFT delegates voted to call on endorsed candidates for public office to support the following priorities:
- Universal healthcare;
- Free tuition at all public colleges and universities, starting with a focus on addressing student debt for all now being crushed by it;
- Universal, full-day and cost-free child care;
- Doubled per-pupil expenditures for low-income K-12 districts;
- Full public funding of public colleges and universities, including wage justice for adjuncts; and
- Taxation of the rich to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Title I and state allocations to public colleges and universities.
[Annette Licitra / photos by Elliott Cramer]