Against all odds

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Community outreach takes on added importance following midterm elections

The November midterm elections brought widespread economic anxiety to the fore, as millions of Americans used their votes to register frustration with an economy still struggling to produce jobs and an unemployment rate that refuses to budge below 9 percent.

Final vote tallies at every government level “suggest tough sledding ahead for our members, for working people generally, and for the most vulnerable in our communities,” said AFT president Randi Weingarten. Major changes, particularly in the state legislatures, likely will mean that “the shifting of blame to the very public employees who make government run will continue and intensify—a way to distract from the tough economic choices that states will face.”

For the union, “that makes working with communities and pursuing our quality agenda even more important than before,” Weingarten stressed.

Results from the midterm elections do not begin to tell the full story for this union, the AFT president added. Thousands of AFT members around the country rose to the challenge this election year, she noted. “I am very proud of the work our members did to help carve out victories in an electoral tidal wave of historic proportions.”

Members’ efforts helped spearhead victories for AFT-backed candidates in a number of key U.S. Senate and House races: in states such as California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island and West Virginia. There were also wins in key gubernatorial races, with AFT-supported candidates claiming victory in California, Colorado, Maryland, Nevada, New York and Vermont. And members’ efforts made many other races more competitive.

On the ballot initiative front, AFT members helped pass key initiatives in California (Proposition 25, which provides for a simple majority to pass a state budget) and Florida (providing new, fairer guidelines for the redistricting process). In addition, members were instrumental in defeating several negative ballot initiatives. Coloradans said no to initiatives aimed at gutting funding for education and infrastructure. And in Massachusetts, voters recognized the need for continued investments in healthcare and public education—and defeated an attempt to roll back the state sales tax.

The union’s effort clearly mattered, Weingarten said, and “nothing that happened in the midterm elections changes this essential fact: The AFT is a strong union, stronger in many ways today than before.

“We focus on the work and on doing what’s right for our members, the people for whom we work and our communities. That’s what we did the day before [Election Day], and it’s what we will continue to do in the days, weeks and months ahead.”