WHEREAS, unions are composed of people who fight every day for a better life for themselves and others, and who deeply care about the people they serve and the people they represent; and
WHEREAS, unions promote and defend the freedom of working people to earn a decent living, to support their families, to have work-life balance, to access important public services like good schools and high-quality healthcare, and to retire with dignity. We champion economic and racial justice; a strong and vibrant democracy, including a free press, an independent judiciary, a thriving labor movement and the protection of the right to vote; and the civil rights of all; and
WHEREAS, we secure these freedoms for all working people through our work at the bargaining table, at the ballot box and in grass-roots actions, and through the work our members do for students, patients and our communities; and therefore unions, historically and today, are the best vehicle for working people to join together to seek and secure a better life and the American dream; and
WHEREAS, public sector unions and the work we do are severely at risk in light of the U.S. Supreme Court decision to hear the Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 case, which threatens to upend 40 years of precedent affirming the constitutionality of fair-share fees—meaning that if a person has the benefits of union representation, the person pays a fair share for that representation; and
WHEREAS, this case is being pushed by corporate interests and right-wing politicians who want to further rig our economy and politics against working people. These anti-union forces understand that unions give working people power and create a level playing field. That’s why, in addition to Janus, these corporate interests and politicians are waging an $80 million campaign across the country to, in their words, “defund and defang” unions:
RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers is a family that will help each of our 1.7 million members and our affiliates in the fight against this right-wing assault on our existence and funding. However, building a union movement for the future is not simply about repelling and resisting the attacks of those who seek our demise—it is about strengthening the work of each and every affiliate so our members and our communities see themselves and their aspirations in our advocacy and DNA. That is what unionism is—the collective work to achieve a better life for the people we serve and represent.
That is why this commitment to fight together to resist the assault comes with the responsibility to strengthen our union by pursuing our core values through the work of member engagement and community involvement.
1. This starts with one-on-one conversations, building worksite leadership structures and mobilizing around campaigns, including contract and issues campaigns, that matter to our members and their communities.
2. Power is built through member and community-engagement mobilizations. We will support actions around contract and legislative fights so that our members experience the power of collective action through their union.
3. We will focus, nurture, and grow long-term capacity and sustainability of affiliates to educate, organize and mobilize members. We will shore up worksite leadership structures that build these relationships through ongoing one-on-one conversations and by providing opportunities for members to mobilize with their union. We will build cohesion by creating opportunities to get to know our union, to experience it on a daily basis, and to build the relationships one forms with those who call themselves “unionists.” We can do this by utilizing multiple pathways for engagement, such as Share My Lesson, student debt clinics, First Book, political campaigns, contract campaigns or legislative fights.
4. We will continue to focus on growth. New members are drawn to the values that define the AFT. Our union has grown dramatically over the last 30 years, taking a leadership position in fighting back against attacks on our core values: great schools and colleges that fulfill the promise of public education, good jobs that support a middle-class life, affordable healthcare, an end to discrimination and bigotry, and the defense of democracy and pluralism. Unions are about fighting and caring. We will continue to lead in these critically important fights by continuing to organize and grow, and to extend the benefits of collective action to every community where these values are under assault; and when these communities are in need—in the face of catastrophes both natural and manmade—we will offer an open hand of assistance and compassion.
5. We will strengthen our programs and supports in all the constituencies we represent, including healthcare, higher education, paraprofessionals and school-related personnel, and public employees. K-12 urban locals were our first locals and have the longest history; this history has given them a stronger stabilization of cohesion between members and their unions. We will, along with AFT state federations, help locals develop thoughtful, intentional engagement with all constituencies by developing issues, messages and campaigns that reflect the special needs of these constituencies; and
RESOLVED, that the AFT executive council commits to do everything in our power to effectuate this resolution, and that the AFT shall publicize this resolution for every state and local affiliate in the country.(2017)