WASHINGTON—In a telephone town hall on Thursday night with thousands of American Federation of Teachers members and leaders who have been actively engaged in the union’s 2020 presidential endorsement process, AFT President Randi Weingarten, Scranton (Pa.) Federation of Teachers President Rosemary Boland, AFT Vermont President Deb Snell and Boston Teachers Union President Jessica Tang discussed the next steps in the AFT’s plan for supporting candidates as the 2020 Democratic presidential primary continues to unfold.
Weingarten reported on this week’s meeting of the AFT executive council, including the passage of a resolution outlining the next steps in the AFT’s 2020 endorsement process. The board voted to step up what is already unprecedented member engagement in the upcoming election by encouraging locals and state affiliates to support, be actively involved with, or endorse the candidacies of Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders or Sen. Elizabeth Warren, ahead of the selection of more than 60 percent of the delegates by the end of March. The resolution signals to members and leaders that support for any of those three candidates is welcome at this stage of the process before the union makes a national endorsement.
This next phase of the union’s 2020 endorsement process follows record member engagement in the first stage of the presidential primary, with more than 300,000 members participating to date—including the public education forum in Pittsburgh that featured seven candidates, the 10 candidate town halls hosted with members around the country, numerous telephone town halls, several member surveys and polls, five regional meetings, and countless activities at the local and affiliate levels. Several AFT locals and state federations have already made candidate endorsements, as encouraged by the initial endorsement resolution, passed in March of 2019.
“We are fighting for working families and our communities to have the freedom to live, and a voice at work and in our democracy. Donald Trump has proven himself to be an existential threat to the values and aspirations of educators, healthcare professionals, public employees and the communities we serve every day. While several candidates in this race share our values, three in particular—Vice President Biden, Sen. Sanders and Sen. Warren have significant support within our membership. There is a real connection with these three candidates because of their record of working with us over the years on public education, higher education, healthcare, labor and civil rights.
“Given the stakes of this election, the enthusiasm among our membership to engage, and the nature of the democratic nomination process, our board felt strongly that until the AFT makes a national endorsement in the primary process or at the AFT convention, it is important that our affiliates, members and leaders, including the three national officers, be actively involved in supporting and helping Vice President Biden, Sen. Sanders and Sen. Warren.
“It was clear that the time to take this action was now, before all the delegates are chosen and before all of the primaries are over, so that AFT members and leaders can help shape the race and the narrative, ensure our voices are heard, and ensure one of these three candidates emerges as the nominee. Because, make no mistake: We are in the fight of our lives—for a better life for our members and the communities we serve, to preserve our democracy, and to defeat Donald Trump. Ultimately, we must be unified and support the eventual Democratic nominee.”
“As a native of Scranton, Vice President Biden knows firsthand about the economic, educational and social issues that matter to our community. He has been a lifelong advocate for strong public schools, labor rights, and access to quality and affordable healthcare—issues important to our members, working families and the students we teach. I, and my members, aren’t just supporting the vice president because of his past record, but also because of his vision for the future—a vision that is focused on strengthening the middle class and providing opportunity for everyone. We are committed to turning out for Joe Biden ahead of Pennsylvania’s April 28 primary, and we resolve to do the same for whomever the eventual Democratic nominee is, too. The stakes are too high to sit on the sidelines.”
“AFT Vermont has proudly endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign for president, and our members in higher education and healthcare are already engaged in his movement to bring universal healthcare to every person in this country, and an affordable college education. Sen. Sanders has shown he has the vision, the momentum and the diversity of support necessary to enact bold policy changes that will undo the corrupting influence of corporate power on our economy, and allow working people to access the better-life issues we fight for every day: decent wages, a secure retirement, good healthcare and an opportunity for our families to get ahead. We are committed to helping Sen. Sanders win delegates, and also committed to supporting whichever Democrat ends up taking on Donald Trump in November.”
"Sen. Elizabeth Warren is the true visionary in this race for president: Her plans for big, structural change make her the clear choice for the Boston Teachers Union and AFT Massachusetts. Sen. Warren’s values are aligned with ours. We strongly support her plans for public education, immigration justice and building an economy that works for all by making it easier for workers in all sectors to join a union and by tackling our nation’s student debt crisis. She has stood with us every step of the way in our ongoing efforts to win the necessary funding and policies to strengthen public education for all, particularly for the students and communities with the greatest needs. This is a critical time for us to show leadership, so we’re proud to stand behind her during the Massachusetts Democratic presidential primary. We look forward to supporting her or whomever is elected as the eventual Democratic nominee.”