AFT Resolution

AFT’S RURAL AGENDA: THE RURAL WAY OF LIFE IS WORTH FIGHTING FOR

WHEREAS, we live in a perilous era of extreme economic inequality, existential threats to our democracy, and dangerous and growing ethnic and racial divisions; and

WHEREAS, while Wall Street and corporate CEOs have experienced an era of record profits and tax breaks, rural areas have been left behind. These communities are undermined by trade policies and by corporate interests that have abandoned them, and as a result, many schools, hospitals, post offices and stores are closing in America’s small towns. These communities feel abandoned by everyone. And, sadly, rather than helping them, powerful forces in America, including the current president, have weaponized the economic distress in rural communities to stoke even further anger and disillusionment; and

WHEREAS, instead of solving existing problems in farm communities, the Trump administration is creating new ones by erratically escalating a trade war, resulting in tariffs that are strangling small towns and family farms; and 

WHEREAS, in addressing these issues, the Trump administration and the radical right-wing extremists try to deflect blame to the “others”—which, today, are immigrants and those fleeing atrocities in other countries; and

WHEREAS, schools and hospitals represent the heart and soul of many rural communities and small towns, providing not only good jobs but also access to critical services and care. From Friday night football games where community members gather to community health outreach programs that are on the frontlines of the opioid crisis, when school and hospitals close, these communities and services are gutted; and

WHEREAS, the American Federation of Teachers recognized these trends several years ago and started to engage rural communities in places such as McDowell County, W.Va., and St. Lawrence County, N.Y.; and

WHEREAS, the AFT has a long and proud history of fighting for our families, students and communities—from the ranches of Montana to the high-rises of New York City. We understand that the fight to ensure all Americans have a better life and better future for our families must run through all of America, regardless of geography or demography; and

WHEREAS, many of the AFT’s 1.7 million members live and work in small towns and rural areas, and we have the influence and connections to be a catalyst that creates a brighter future for rural communities:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers will adopt a rural agenda that proclaims: “The rural way of life is worth fighting for. The AFT is committed to doing our part and collaborating with partners to see that rural communities have equal access to education, high-quality healthcare, reliable public services and an environment where people can gather, break bread and share stories. We will rally our resources and work toward the aspiration that “Not one more school, not one more hospital, not one more post office, not one more grocery store should close on our watch’ ”; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will create and staff a Rural Hub that will work with the Rural Taskforce to achieve this vision. This requires us to build power and agency in rural communities, and to ensure that rural communities and small townsand especially the members who live and work in these areasare well incorporated into our unionwide priorities, and work to build a broad coalition of partners to increase the investment in and access to crucial public services in rural communities; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will work with labor allies and strategic partners to expand our Fund Our Future campaign to specifically engage rural areas and small towns. By reaching out and engaging rural communities in our fight to increase funding and access to critical services, we can connect the struggles of working families, whether in rural or urban areas, and fight toward our vision of “not one more school, hospital, post office, or grocery store should close on our watch”; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will launch at least five new projects in targeted rural communities over the next year. These projects will be built using the lessons learned from our years of work in rural communities, like McDowell County, W.Va., and St. Lawrence County, N.Y. These projects will be tailored to the needs of the communities and will range from developing care closets in distressed communities to rebuilding the critical campaign infrastructure needed to organize in rural areas and small towns; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will work to convene tables of interested stakeholders, who will work together to generate tailored solutions for each rural community. From the Black Belt of the South to the Native American communities of the West to the industrial factories of the Midwest, each community has its own needs and challenges. By working with a table of partners, we can increase the probability of our success, whether the solution is conducting First Book events or leveraging additional funding through federal grants or corporate partnerships; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will offer leaders and staff training and resources to help them effectively create an environment where people not only feel safe but also understand and confront the undercurrents that have been used to divide and polarize rural and urban America along race, class, cultural and faith lines; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will work with willing partners to fill the void as we fight to ensure rural communities are counted in the U.S. census, are not left out of the Green New Deal, have the necessary resources to address the opioid/heroin epidemic, and have their concerns addressed in party platforms.

(2019)

Please note that a newer resolution, or portion of a resolution, may have superseded an earlier resolution on the same subject. As a result, with the exception of resolutions adopted at our most recent AFT convention, resolutions do not necessarily reflect current AFT policies.