Convention 2022: Back in person and better than ever

Over 3,000 AFT delegates are here in Boston for our first in-person convention in four years. Our theme is Reclaim Our Future—because the work that you do has never been more crucial to moving America forward. In this year’s energizing, inspiring program, AFT President Randi Weingarten will be joined by a riveting roster of speakers, including first lady of the United States (and lifelong educator) Dr. Jill Biden, Amazon Labor Union President Chris Smalls, Senator Elizabeth Warren and civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III. 

Registrants at AFT convention
Photo by Pamela Wolfe

Front and center is the convention business of voting on cutting-edge resolutions, including canceling student debt; fighting “Don’t Say Gay” bills; prioritizing culturally responsive curricula; reducing greenhouse gas emissions; ending gun violence; fixing healthcare staffing shortages; improving adjunct pay and benefits; supporting CTE internships and apprenticeships; and solidarity with Ukraine. 

Thursday’s program kicks off with local and state luminaries: Boston Teachers Union President Jessica Tang, AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos, Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Steven Tolman and City of Boston Mayor Michelle Wu. AFT Pres. Weingarten’s State of the Union speech will follow—a get-you-on-your-feet barnburner about our union’s most vital mission: offering hope, aspiration and unity to an America struggling with fear, hate and division. She’ll show how we are creating a better life for all.

Friday focuses on making a difference in our communities, most especially through the labor movement, culminating with remarks from the first lady. The program also features U.S. Sens. Warren and Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, Secretary of Labor of the U.S. Martin J. Walsh and AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler. 

We’ll also look at new frontiers in organizing, with Amazon Labor Union President Chris Smalls and Starbucks organizing leaders Richard Bensinger, Kylah Clay and Jordie Adams. Then Irene Mulvey, president of the American Association of University Professors, will join us for the signing of the historic affiliation agreement between the AFT and AAUP, uniting more than 300,000 faculty. Plus, we’ll have two ripped-from-the-headlines panels: Patients Over Profits, with AFT healthcare leaders; and Gun Safety, with March for Our Lives co-founder David Hogg and AFT member Sarah Lerner, co-founder of Teachers Unify to End Gun Violence. 

Saturday is about making a difference for our kids—at home and around the world. We’ll hear from Massachusetts Attorney General (and gubernatorial candidate) Maura Healey—the United States’ first openly gay state attorney general; she’s taken on powerful interests, including Big Pharma and predatory student lenders. Speaking on parent engagement will be National PTA Executive Director Nathan Monell and League of United Latin American Citizens CEO Sindy M. Benavides. Civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, will speak and share his short film, Otis’ Dream—the true story of his grandfather, a World War I veteran and Georgia sharecropper, and his attempt to vote in fall 1946. This film will bring tears to your eyes and fire your resolve to fight the rampant voter suppression still happening in our country. 

For a firsthand account of what Putin’s war is doing to children and educators, we’ll hear from Olha Chabaniuk, vice president of the Trade Union of Education and Science Workers of Ukraine, and the Polish Teachers’ Trade Union president Sławomir Broniarz. 

Sunday’s program spotlights the ballot box, featuring Voters of Tomorrow Executive Director Santiago Mayer and U.S. Rep. Val Demings (who is fast climbing in the polls in her challenge for Marco Rubio’s Florida senate seat). We’ll also honor Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi with the AFT Women’s Rights Award.

Throughout convention, be on the lookout for our AFT Roving Reporter and make your voice heard. Our reporter—with a camera—will be around during the convention, asking delegates what they think about the important issues we're discussing. And make sure to stop by the AFT Activist Center for tools and ideas to engage with our members and our community. There you’ll find information and resources on a galaxy of AFT initiatives and programs, including AFTvotes, AFT Retirees, Workplace Safety and Health, First Book, Social Media Activism, Union Leadership Institute and Student Loan Debt Relief. 

Here’s to a convention full of connection, community and inspiration. Have a great time in the great city of Boston!

[Christina Bartolomeo]