WASHINGTON—The American Federation of Teachers’ executive council passed a resolution today outlining the union’s plan to defend American democracy, including the exercise of the right to vote and the requirement to count every vote, in light of ongoing threats by President Trump and his allies.
It highlights four key areas the union’s leadership identified that must be protected:
- Every American citizen registered to vote must be able to vote. In the context of the current pandemic, voters must have the ability to cast their ballot in ways that do not endanger their health, such as mail ballots and early voting, as well as have sufficient ways to vote on Nov. 3. There must be sufficient numbers of polling stations and election officials for all voters to vote. Intimidation of voters must not be allowed to stand.
- Every vote must be counted. Given the unprecedented numbers of votes that have been cast early and by mail, the final tally will not be known on election night. Indeed, there may not be enough of a vote count available on Nov. 3 to project who has won. Counting must continue until all votes have been counted.
- The electoral verdict of “we the people” must be respected. It is not the right of those in power—whether they be in the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court, or in state capitols and local governments—to decide who governs us. It is the right of the people, and the people alone. The reins (or leadership) of government must be transferred peacefully to the choice of the people.
- We will not be intimidated. AFT members have a proud tradition of engaging in the peaceful struggle for American democracy. In the tradition of our teachers, Martin Luther King Jr. and A. Philip Randolph, we will organize and participate in peaceful, nonviolent mass protests against any efforts to thwart free and fair elections and to undermine American democracy. When democracy is in danger, we will be in the streets and in our workplaces with our colleagues in the labor movement and allies in the community, defending it against its enemies—foreign and domestic.
The resolution goes on to outline the unique role educators and other professionals must play in defending democracy during these historic times, and explains:
“While our opposition to Trump is clear, our defense of the right to vote, the requirement to count every vote and the assurance that the will of the voters must determine who is president must not depend on a presidential preference. In the coming days, we will do everything in our power to support our fellow citizens in the effort to exercise their democratic franchise and cast their votes. We will remain engaged with fellow democracy defenders to see that those votes are counted and that the will of the people is reflected in the peaceful transition of power to the legitimate winners of our free and fair elections.”
In response to the resolution’s passage, AFT President Randi Weingarten said:
“We take very seriously any threat to the sanctity of our elections and the peaceful transfer of power. It is our job as educators, healthcare professionals, public employees and, most importantly, human beings to defend democracy, which requires fighting for Americans’ right to vote and then counting every vote. That is the first step to building a fairer and more democratic society. I feel this keenly as a teacher, particularly a teacher of civics. I feel this even more keenly watching President Trump undermining the foundational underpinnings of our democracy—the consent of the governed.
“And I am not alone. Our executive council, representing our entire union of 1.7 million people, feels this same urgency. We vow to stand—masked, safely—with our fellow citizens in this fight to preserve our beloved country, whatever form that fight make take.”
Full text of the resolution can be found here.