Weingarten: ‘We are fighting to count every vote’

The AFT telephone town hall on the eve of Election Day was an opportunity to thank members for their activism and make one more push to get out every last vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. AFT members have shown up in extraordinary ways to get out the vote in this election season.


“For many of us, it’s been a long four years,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten during the call. “If we leave everything on the field, then we are going to win. If we continue to do the extraordinary work that we have done, Joe Biden will be the president.”

The union set a goal for 100,000 contacts and 2,000 volunteer shifts in the last month, and that goal was shattered. “We have hit more than 450,000 contact attempts and will complete more than 7,000 volunteer shifts by election night,” Weingarten said, adding that the AFT Votes bus tour, which wrapped up on Nov. 1, visited 14 states in 33 days, starting in California and ending in Florida.

Weingarten said the way our members and communities showed up during the bus tour was “remarkable.” And she was even more impressed with their “enthusiasm for voting, and the resilience of people, and the joy of being together.” She told call participants: “We heard over and over again, people are exhausted by the chaos and the division. They want change, and change we will get with Biden and Harris. Under a Biden administration, we will see a resurgence of organizing and a renaissance of public education—I really believe that—and it is time to get him across the finish line.”

Two member activists, Everett Whitfield and Marguerite Ruff joined Weingarten on the call.

Whitfield, a middle school teacher and member of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, had the opportunity to introduce Biden during a drive-in campaign rally at the Michigan State Fairgrounds in October. Whitfield encouraged listeners to think not only about the teachers and the frontline workers dealing with the consequences of COVID-19 when they vote but also about the history behind the right to vote. “We as a country have progressed little by little. We must continue to fight and never give up. Keep hope alive, fight and vote for Joe Biden.”

Ruff, a special education classroom assistant and member of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, who has worked for the School District of Philadelphia for more than 19 years, had a chance to speak with Biden during the AFT convention in July. “I had his undivided attention,” said Ruff, who was able to talk about the crisis in education, the economy and healthcare with Biden. “I also got to speak on the social injustice and to speak about my personal struggle. And it was amazing how this candidate … was able to relate to me. It was honest and heartfelt,” she said. “This election has been a serious journey. I mean, we are fighting for our lives like no other election. And if you want to live, vote Biden and Harris.”

Weingarten agreed, noting, “Every time Joe has been with us, you saw his basic decency and his heartfelt attention to our issues, and our members’ issues and our families’ issues, and that's what he will bring to the White House.”

Weingarten then took a moment to focus on what could happen after Election Day. She said Trump is trying to create an impression that his victory is inevitable but cautioned listeners to be patient. “No one right now knows what the count will be. We are counseling patience. Don't get dispirited if Trump is winning at a point or two during Tuesday night. A lot of the Democratic vote came in by mail. We know that Trump will push people to vote on Election Day. We will win if the vote comes out,” she said. “We are fighting to count every vote. Don't get intimidated. Don't get bullied. Don't get dispirited. There may be a couple of days that feel hairy. We feel confident [but] cautious that if we get the vote out and count every vote, Joe Biden will win.”

In the meantime, Weingarten encouraged those listeners who have not yet voted to vote. “Go vote, yourself, and then get at least three more people out to vote. Your family members who live with you who haven't voted yet—get them out to vote and encourage them to vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.”

[Adrienne Coles]