WASHINGTON—The national leadership of the American Federation of Teachers has voted to hold the union’s biennial national convention virtually this year, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. This marks only the third time since the AFT’s founding in 1916 that the event will not been held in person. The convention, which typically draws thousands of educators, nurses and public employees from around the country, was scheduled to take place in Houston July 27-30, but will now be held online July 28-30. Delegates will consider constitutional and by-law changes and resolutions at the convention, but the election of AFT officers and executive council, which normally happens at the convention, will be conducted among those delegates via U.S. mail.
The AFT notes that at the time the decision was made, many of the localities in which its members serve, as well as the city of Houston and Harris County, Texas, were still abiding by physical distancing guidelines.
“Our No. 1 priority during this crisis is the health and safety of our members, their families and the people we serve,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “We considered several options and did a lot of soul searching, but ultimately, in the absence of a vaccine, and with adequate testing and tracing likely still months away, we could not, in good conscience, put people at risk by asking them to gather in a large group in Houston.
“We also recognize that the economic toll of this pandemic represents a massive challenge for all of us, and we want to be prudent given the many months of recovery that lay ahead. While we’re disappointed we won’t see everyone in person in Houston, we look forward to exploring new ways to honor our members’ work, particularly on the frontlines of this crisis; chart our path forward; and welcome many special guests from a safe distance this year.”
A copy of the full resolution can be read here.