AFT Resolution


WHEREAS, for 54 years as a member and leader of the American Federation of Teachers, most recently as secretary-treasurer of the AFT since 2011, Lorretta Johnson has worked tirelessly to promote worker rights—especially for paraprofessionals—civil rights, human rights, economic rights, expanded collective bargaining rights for thousands of AFT members, and has strengthened the AFT’s voice and power around the country and the world; and

WHEREAS, under her leadership, including her earlier role as executive vice president from 2008-11, the AFT grew in membership by 238,000 and in financial strength to become one of the most effective and powerful unions in the United States; and

WHEREAS, during her 12 years of leadership as a national officer at the AFT, Lorretta Johnson was a fierce advocate for racial equity and in 2014 chaired the AFT Racial Equity Task Force, leading the AFT to become the first public sector union in modern history to issue a substantive and important report with concrete recommendations to achieve racial equity; and

WHEREAS, during her 30-year tenure as an AFT vice president, Lorretta Johnson continued her indefatigable leadership by serving simultaneously as president of the Baltimore Teachers Union’s paraprofessional chapter for 35 years and was president of AFT-Maryland for 17 years; and

WHEREAS, Lorretta Johnson started her career as a teacher’s aide in 1966 at a Baltimore elementary school, where she earned $2.25 an hour and received no benefits, she organized the paraprofessionals into the Baltimore Teachers Union and in 1970 negotiated their first contract, which laid the groundwork for her union activism in the Baltimore community, the state of Maryland and countless contracts she has negotiated over the years; and

WHEREAS, Lorretta Johnson’s philosophy of activism can be summed up in a story she likes to tell: “If you see me in a fight with a bear, help the bear,” which means she uses her fearless intellect, moxie and grace to speak truth to power; improve the working and economic conditions for paraprofessionals and working families; and with sheer persistence and will the democratic bonds of our country; and

WHEREAS, Lorretta Johnson’s contributions extend beyond the AFT; she is a vice president of the AFL-CIO; serves on the boards of the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department and the Union Label and Services Trades Department; and as treasurer of the AFL-CIO Department of Professional Employees; she is vice president of the Metropolitan Council AFL-CIO, treasurer of the Municipal Employees Credit Union and serves on the boards of the A. Phillip Randolph Institute, BlueGreen Alliance, Citizens for Tax Justice, Child Labor Coalition and the Institute For Women’s Policy Research; and

WHEREAS, Lorretta Johnson has earned many national awards during her more than five decades of work, but her greatest award has always been her family, which includes her late husband, Leonard, her three children, eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers offers our deep and everlasting gratitude to Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson for her many years of service to the AFT, to our members and to the American labor movement; and

RESOLVED, that we honor Lorretta Johnson’s 54 years of leadership in promoting the dignity of AFT members and working people in our own country and around the world by fighting for worker rights, civil rights, economic rights, human rights, expanding collective bargaining for thousands of our AFT paraprofessionals, and enhancing the influence and power of the AFT; and

RESOLVED, that while allowing Lorretta Johnson her well-deserved retirement, the AFT names her secretary-treasurer emeritus, allowing the union to call upon her to help fight to defend and extend political and workplace democracy for all Americans; and

RESOLVED, that we honor Lorretta Johnson with the AFT Human Rights Award at our upcoming convention for her years of fighting for human rights at home and abroad.