WHEREAS, America is in the fifth year of an economic recovery that has been marked by increased austerity and rising inequality; our citizens are holding diminished hope that the American dream—the essential promise of America—is within their reach; and
WHEREAS, we are still 7 million jobs short of the number needed to make up for the losses caused by the Great Recession and to account for new population growth; and
WHEREAS, too few of the jobs we have created have been in sectors like construction, manufacturing and public employment, which traditionally have held the promise of a middle-class lifestyle, so that half of all jobs in America pay less than $27,000 a year; and
WHEREAS, American workers are more productive than ever before, yet wages have failed to keep pace with that productivity; 80 percent of the workers who are in the middle and bottom of the wage distribution now earn less than similarly placed workers did prior to the recession; and
WHEREAS, the impact of these trends is evident in every part of American society:
- The median retirement savings for working-age households is $3,000, and it is only $12,000 for those near retirement;
- There is no access to paid sick or other leave for 40 percent of private sector workers in this country; 
- Nearly 20 percent of American children have a parent whose earnings would be improved from an increased minimum wage; and
WHEREAS, women earn just 77 cents on the dollar for similar work when compared with men, and the legacy of unequal pay means that the majority of the millions of workers who would be helped by raising the minimum wage and implementing policies like paid family leave are women; and
WHEREAS, all wage gains since the recession have gone to the richest 20 percent of Americans, and the richest 1percent of Americans now have a greater share of income than at any time since the Great Depression. Six members of the Walton family alone have as much wealth as 42 percent of Americans; and
WHEREAS, rising inequality is associated with lower rates of upward mobility across generations, lower life expectancy, lower rates of child well-being, greater health and social problems, and slower economic growth; and
WHEREAS, high-quality public education, from early childhood through higher learning, is an essential vehicle to create innovation and skills, but also equality of opportunity and stronger communities, yet most states are funding schools at less than pre-recession levels, and Americans now hold more than $1 trillion in debt trying to pay for higher education; and
WHEREAS, all public services have a vital role to play in combating the harms caused by both the recession and inequality, with investments in these services and in our economic infrastructure being absolutely essential to put Americans back to work and move our economy forward; and
WHEREAS, a higher minimum wage and better access to overtime protections, paid sick days and other pro-family policies are absolutely essential to helping our communities secure a prosperous and secure future for themselves; and
WHEREAS, too many of our elected officials have turned their backs on investment and espoused a self-defeating policy of austerity, valuing tax cuts for the rich over investments in the kind of economic development that will create a prosperous society for all; and
WHEREas, stronger labor unions are associated with an increase in wages and greater access to benefits for all workers, not just those who are union members, and the decline in unionization is associated directly with the rise in economic inequality in America and a political system where the interests of the richest crowd out the interests of the rest; and
WHEREAS, the American people are the real “job creators,” and investments in our people and our infrastructure are urgently needed; and
WHEREas, policies like a higher minimum wage, developing a stronger labor movement and modernizing our infrastructure will help create a virtuous cycle; and
WHEREAS, the American Federation of Teachers, its brothers and sisters in labor, and its partners in the community are in a unique position to address these issues and advocate for an economy that is both fair and productive:
RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers will work to address the issues of inequality and austerity while advocating for policies that will build a virtuous cycle and bring the American dream within reach for all Americans. To do so:
- The AFT will advocate for an expansion in the right of workers to have unions that can give them a meaningful voice and fight to protect that right where it is threatened.
- The AFT will continue to take steps to modernize our economic infrastructure, expanding upon its work with the Clinton Global Initiative and pension funds to provide the capital to create nearly 200,000 new jobs, while helping rebuild our infrastructure.
- The AFT will advocate for retirement security for all, working at all levels to develop and support policies that will allow all public and private sector workers, union and nonunion alike, to have access to retirement plans that provide a pathway to real economic security.
- The AFT will advocate for actions at the state and federal levels to create the revenue systems to pay for these needed reforms, including appropriate taxes on financial transactions such as stock trades, options and swaps, and closing the loophole for carried interest that lets partners in private equity funds pay at a lower tax rate than their secretaries.
- The AFT will advocate for incentives to increase manufacturing in America that will create good jobs for our workers, not just further enrich our CEOs.
- The AFT will advocate for investment in the essential public services, including healthcare and public education, that are needed to create equality of opportunity and prosperous communities.
- The AFT will advocate for universal early childhood education, adequate funding for K-12 education and debt-free higher education—all with a focus on expanding access and improving quality.
- The AFT will advocate for policies at all levels that put Americans back to work, increase the minimum wage, provide access to paid sick and/or other leave time, proportional benefits for part-time workers so there is no longer the incentive to deny full-time employment and work to improve wages, provide economic security and improve family life for all Americans.
In so doing, we will be working to reclaim the promise of America for all its people.
The promise of America rests on a foundation of democracy and economic opportunity.
The promise of America means ensuring all children have access to a great neighborhood public school that is child-centered, not test-obsessed.
The promise of America means students can have the advantage of a college education without becoming disadvantaged in the process.
The promise of America means that when workers and families get sick, they’ll get good healthcare, and getting that care won’t mean going broke.
The promise of America means that working people will be treated fairly on the job, and will get a real raise every once in a while. It means not having to choose between your job and taking care of a sick child or an aging parent.
The promise of America means that a lifetime of work will be rewarded with a retirement with dignity.
The promise of America means the voice of everyday people who work to make a better life for their families and their communities won’t be drowned out by the political purchasing power of the wealthy.