All of us deserve the ‘Freedom to Thrive’

As part of the Biden administration’s giant push to get the nation past the pandemic and back on its feet, AFT President Randi Weingarten joined environmental and economic justice leaders on March 29 in support of new legislation that dovetails with the AFT’s Freedom for All to Thrive campaign.

Freedom for All to Thrive

Our union has a historic opportunity to rebuild our economy with green union jobs, Weingarten says. In the face of COVID-19 and our mounting climate crisis, President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan provides the funding we need to put our country on the road to recovery, she adds, explaining that now is the time to “build back better” and improve all our communities, strengthen our unions, combat climate change, and address racial and environmental justice.

Weingarten is joining Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) to introduce the Transform, Heal, and Renew by Investing in a Vibrant Economy (THRIVE) Act, a bill that would accomplish these goals. Click here to tell your lawmakers to support the THRIVE Act.

Next, you can join fellow members and allies nationwide on Wednesday, March 31, as we join a Time to Thrive day of action to get the THRIVE Act passed. We need your help in contacting lawmakers, posting on social media and attending events in your area to make it happen.

Freedom to Thrive

If passed, the THRIVE Act will invest a minimum of $1 trillion per year to create 15 million jobs and achieve full employment. It would create:

  • Over 2 million jobs in the education and care economy, including teachers, school support staff, and workers in healthcare, child care, elder care and public health.
  • Over 5 million jobs to upgrade our nation’s infrastructure, including modern school facilities, clean water, affordable public transportation and a reliable electric grid that reaches all Americans.
  • Over 4 million jobs to manufacture and expand access to wind and solar power, electric vehicles, and clean and healthy buildings.
  • Nearly 4 million jobs to protect our wetlands and forests, and invest in family farmers who are embracing regenerative agriculture.

THRIVE also will build the power of workers to fight inequality by:

  • Expanding all workers’ rights to form and join unions and negotiate with their employers through adoption of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act and the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act.
  • Ensuring rigorous labor standards for all jobs created by THRIVE investments by guaranteeing family-sustaining wages and benefits; expanding union apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs; requiring project labor agreements in places where strong collective bargaining and good union contracts do not yet exist; and strengthening Buy American standards.
  • Protecting wages and benefits for workers and communities adversely affected by the economic transition to renewable energy.
  • Preventing privatization of public sector jobs and public resources.

In addition, THRIVE will ensure environmental justice, protect the rights of Native American and Alaska Native tribes, and include binding climate targets to ensure 100 percent clean energy generated by 2035.

“This is a big, bold and ambitious agenda,” Weingarten says, “to center those who have historically been left behind in efforts to build back better: workers and our vulnerable communities. If we do this together, we can ensure people not only survive but thrive.”

The time is now

So why this campaign, and why now? Because every person in America deserves the freedom to thrive, fueled by economic and educational opportunity and justice, fairness and a voice for all. That requires not just addressing the confluence of crises affecting our country—including COVID-19, economic insecurity, a reckoning with racism, and threats to our democracy—but also creating the conditions for opportunity and justice.

New polling by Data for Progress supports these efforts. Survey results released March 28 show that 77 percent of voters say Congress should be doing more to help America fully recover from the pandemic, and 73 percent say it is time for Congress to make a long-overdue investment in American infrastructure.

A “freedom to thrive” agenda means ensuring that Americans can have unions; an economy that works for all; great public schools and affordable higher education; healthcare as a right; retirement security; voting and civil rights; a vibrant democracy; and safe, welcoming and healthy environments and communities, regardless of who you are, where you live, how you worship or who you love.

Help your community, as well as other American communities in need, by contacting your legislators today.

[AFT staff]