Convention celebrates victories, accepts challenges

Speakers inspire commitment; resolutions reflect determination to fight back, fight forward

The 2014 AFT Convention in Los Angeles July 11-14 did much to energize the union’s “fight forward”—to preserve public workers’ rights—and our “fight back”—against those who would demonize public employees.

Members reviewed successes in places like Connecticut, where an AFT local negotiated a popular wellness program, and North Dakota, where the AFT-affiliated North Dakota Public Employees Association and the North Dakota Education Association merged to form the state’s largest public employee union.

AFT Executive Vice President Francine Lawrence applauded public employee activists for advocating “on behalf of not just our members but those you serve,” and criticized the “misguided policies” of those who call for privatization and austerity.

On the convention floor, delegates passed a number of public employee-related resolutions, among them measures that oppose privatization of public services, support full restitution of pensions to Detroit municipal workers, and “proactively press forward … to reclaim the promise of high-quality public services for strong communities.”

Delegates also voted to support immigration reform; to help Central American children crossing into the U.S. to flee violence in their home countries; and to increase locals’ per capita dues by 45 cents.

But the fireworks came through inspiring speakers like the Rev. William Barber, California Gov. Jerry Brown and AFT President Randi Weingarten, who passionately declared their intentions to reclaim the promise of America. Other speakers included actor and parent Cynthia Nixon; L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti; U.S. Reps. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.) and Mike Honda (D-Calif.); and Donna Brazile, vice chair of the National Democratic Committee.

“We are in the midst of a moral crisis that demands we have a movement now,” said Barber. “We will organize and fight for the soul of our democracy. … When we get together we win.”

Weingarten noted that, despite devastating challenges to labor unions, at 1.6 million members the AFT is larger than ever. “Our union of professionals gives us the strength and solidarity to fight for what’s right.” She urged delegates to connect with community, pursue solution-driven unionism, and engage and empower their members.

To give back to the host city, AFT volunteers visited All Peoples Community Center in downtown L.A. to distribute free groceries and books, set up healthy cooking demonstrations and direct local residents to health assessment services, helping All Peoples connect with other social networks that will serve them well into the future. It was a perfect example of how the AFT is truly reclaiming the promise.

Public Employee Advocate, Fall 2014
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