08/17/2020

DNC delegates bring joy and determination

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Bursting with enthusiasm for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, AFT delegates to the Democratic National Convention gathered online to prepare for the convention, ask questions and get fired up. They will nominate Biden and Harris for president and vice president at the Democratic convention Aug. 17-20, a virtual convention “like no other,” in the words of AFT President Randi Weingarten.

dnc delegate zoom

Prime viewing time will be each night from 9-11. You can commit to watch and find out how to watch. Other highlights include an Educators for Biden Zoom Rally with Jill Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Aug. 18 at 7:30 p.m., and a panel on gun violence featuring Weingarten on Aug. 19 at 2:30 p.m.

“We are as unified as a party as we have ever been. Part of that is the circumstances facing us,” Weingarten told dozens of the 125 AFT delegates at their prep session on Saturday. “It’s the first time we’re meeting virtually, but it is also the first time that the Democratic Party has been mindful of all its constituencies. You can see it in the fact that Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders came together and created unity committees. It was key to Joe Biden’s decision that he would select a woman to be his vice presidential nominee; it was clear that there was a glass ceiling and he wanted to break that. And it is clear, with the racial reckoning we face, that Joe Biden was committed to selecting a woman of color as his running mate. He wanted to show the diversity of our party, and that our unity is our strength.”

The delegates heard from three guests: U.S. Reps. Karen Bass of California and Max Rose of New York, and Biden staffer Julie Chávez Rodríguez, granddaughter of iconic union leader César Chávez.

A champion of human rights and criminal justice reform, Bass chairs the Congressional Black Caucus and was a contender for the vice presidential slot. She asked AFT delegates to imagine that, in 80 days, voters will hand pink slips to Donald Trump and his education secretary.

“Betsy DeVos has been the nightmare we knew she would be. Every head of every federal agency was picked to go in and destroy that agency,” Bass said, adding that she’s “excited for the day when we can relegate this regime to the dustbin of history.”

Rose flipped a Republican seat on Staten Island in 2018, running on working-class values. He told Weingarten, “You’re a legend in my family,” which includes four generations of teachers.

The GOP doesn’t blink when it gives billions to big corporations and wealthy individuals, he said, but its leaders now whine that they can’t do anything for working people. “They’ve got to go!” he said. “We’re not only going to win this election, we’re going to win this decade, and we’re going to build the country that we all know is possible.”

AFT Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson introduced Chávez Rodríguez, who worked in the Obama administration and for the Harris campaign. “I can’t think of a more historic ticket to help take us forward,” Chávez Rodríguez said.

Throughout the prep session, the delegates’ chat room was brimming with excitement. Delegates talked about how they plan to be poll workers, how they’ve been out protesting, and how staunchly they support the ticket.

Jimmie Woods-Gray of United Teachers Los Angeles called herself “an original supporter of Joe Biden” and commended the Scranton (Pa.) Federation of Teachers for becoming the first AFT local to endorse Biden, in January: “The Scranton teachers made me feel so proud!”

Weingarten plans to be a poll worker herself. “I don’t want people who are at risk to do it,” she told delegates. “But I want everybody who can to do it, with the proper PPE, distancing and hand-washing. Years from now, people will look back and ask, ‘What did you do to fight for justice and opportunity?’”

[Annette Licitra]