IT WAS THEIR once-a-year chance to come together, hundreds of paraprofessionals and school-related personnel “powering up” for the hard work ahead: Hard work to mobilize fellow members. Hard work to restore school funding. Hard work to end racism.
“When will we say we’ve had enough?” asked PSRP Chair Ruby Newbold, above left, president of the Detroit Association of Educational Office Employees and an AFT vice president, to open the conference, held April 15-19 in Washington, D.C. “We are powering up, … and now that we’re powered up and fully charged, let’s get to work.”
Before and after swapping ideas on powering up members, PSRPs heard what AFT President Randi Weingarten had to say about it. She started by talking about the threat to union organizing that’s now playing out in the U.S. Supreme Court (see story, page 6). She updated the crowd on the status of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (see page 4). And she marked the beginning of the AFT’s participation in the 2016 presidential election by pointing members to “You Decide”.
As always, Solidarity Night brought PSRPs to their feet for an explosion of celebration and protest set to music by the AFT Chorus, with powerful performances from PSRPs in the Chicago Teachers Union and the Baltimore Teachers Union, among others.
AFT PSRP loaded up its pre-conference schedule with Jump Start activities, in which attendees and staff join local volunteers to give back to the community (see next page).
The second day featured a seminar on the role of civil rights in the American labor movement. The labor portion of Jump Start closed with an exercise in creating vision statements. Some of the most inspiring included these: “Our children are our vision.” “Diversity multiplies opportunity.” “Be a mouth that can work a crowd.” And, “Member, get a member.” As one PSRP said: “We’re working for families. We’re working for health. We’re working for true opportunity for all.” And there was this: “Don’t sit alone. Stand together and fight.”