Calling AFT members the “strongest, hardest working, most dedicated people in this country,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) told the crowd of convention-goers this afternoon that she is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with them, and with AFT leadership, in the fight for unions, public workers and justice, and against corporate greed and inequity.
Warren said she knows that teachers are getting “crushed” by inadequate pay and resources, working two and three jobs just to make ends meet, “drowning in student loan debt and struggling to teach on shoestring budgets and insulting salaries.” Students are losing out as well; because of inadequate resources, those who need support are being left behind.
“America is failing our teachers, and when we fail our teachers, we fail our students and we fail our future,” said Warren.
Nevertheless, Warren said she is hopeful, because people are no longer silent. “Across the country, educators are rising up, speaking out and fighting for the future of this country.” Those fights are made possible by unions like the AFT, she added. “Make no mistake, unions built America’s middle class and unions will rebuild America’s middle class.”
Echoing a theme we’ve heard throughout the convention—that times are dire and workers are under attack, but that millions have been inspired to rise up and resist—Warren noted that while we may be up against “powerful forces” with more money and power, “there’s a whole lot more of us than there is of them.”
We will need all those forces, given the long list of the battles Warren described the AFT already waging: “You took to the streets during the women’s march,” she began. “You showed up at airports to protest Trump’s racist Muslim ban. You stormed the halls of Congress to help save the Affordable Care Act. You taught our students how to call out bigotry when hate was in the headlines after Charlottesville. You led the fight against Betsy DeVos and her radical anti-public school agenda.
“You stood with the kids from Parkland and said our communities should not be war zones. You have said loud and clear that the American government should not separate desperate mothers from their children. And while the Trump administration and the Supreme Court have mercilessly attacked unions, you have stood strong with your brothers and sisters across the labor movement, and you have fought back.
“You are in all of these fights, and I am proud, proud to fight shoulder to shoulder alongside you.”
And though the fight may be an “uphill battle,” she said, “we’re going to keep raising our voices. We’ll be in statehouses, we’ll be in courthouses, we’ll be in hospitals, we’ll be on job sites. We’ll organize the fight for working people across America. We’ll register the voters. We’ll bring in everyone off the sidelines. And come Nov. 6, we will vote to save this democracy.”
[Virginia Myers, photos by Michael Campbell]