Several AFT members traveled to Capitol Hill May 4 to share their perspective on a number of issues at the top of the nation’s news feed, and urge lawmakers to support them as they seek better funding for public schools, safety from gun violence and protection from privatization. Representing members from across the nation, they demonstrated the AFT’s commitment to activism around issues essential to educators, their students and their communities.
From many hundreds of door knocks to almost 50 worksite meetings, member activists set out to engage other AFT members earlier this month in and around Anchorage, Alaska. Altogether, about 40 participants—activists from the state’s AFT affiliates and volunteers from the lower 48 states—met with about 500 members for one-on-one conversations about their most urgent issues, including healthcare coverage and contract negotiations.
It’s no secret that the Education Department led by Betsy DeVos has threatened civil rights advances and even tried to shut down her own department’s Office for Civil Rights. So as the Higher Education Reauthorization Act moves through Congress, equity advocates, including the AFT, have banded together as The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights to issue a list of 10 principles that must be included in any HEA reauthorization in order to protect civil rights in higher education. These include protection for racial equity, access and affordability.
Hundreds of nurses from across the country traveled to Washington, D.C., on April 26 to raise their voices against a long standing problem for nurses: unsafe staffing. Nearly 100 nurses from AFT's affiliate in New Jersey, Health Professionals and Allied Employees came by bus to attend the Nurses Take DC rally. This is the third year Nurses Take DC has gone to Washington. The grassroots movement was started in 2016 by a group of nurses who wanted to take a stand for safer staffing in the hospitals and facilities where nurses work by raising awareness of the issue with the public.
The AFT has severed ties to Wells Fargo after the mortgage giant refused to break its close relationships with gun manufacturers and the NRA. The move means the mortgage giant could lose business from thousands of AFT members who, in the past, have used a member benefits tool to finance their home purchases through Wells Fargo. “The lives of students and educators must be valued more than guns,” says AFT President Randi Weingarten. “We have a responsibility to our members and their students, who face potential gun violence every day. [Wells Fargo] can be the bank for America’s teachers, or it can be the bank for the NRA and gun manufacturers. But, given the NRA’s refusal to even help mitigate gun violence, Wells Fargo can’t be both.”
Most people think of a week in the Virgin Islands as a vacation, but the more than two dozen AFT nurses and health professionals who traveled there in early April were on a mission. Their goal: to perform vision and hearing screenings for all the public school students on the islands. The effort was part of AFT's comprehensive recovery assistance that it has been providing since hurricanes Irma and Maria struck the islands last September.
Workers looking to join a union have used rules established by the National Labor Relations Board during the Obama years that streamlined the union election process, making it more transparent and timely. Now President Trump's appointees to the NLRB appear to be ready to rescind these rules. More than 10,000 AFT activists have weighed in, urging the NLRB to leave the rules in place.
The AFT has issued a report urging Wall Street leaders to fight for gun violence prevention by avoiding investmentsin companies that make assault weapons. “Educators have a right to assume their deferred wages [retirement funds] are not being invested in the companies that make the military-style assault weapons used to injure and kill them and their students in countless school shootings,” says AFT President Randi Weingarten.
Current and future leaders of the AFT, together with President Randi Weingarten and Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson, headlined the inaugural PSRP Leadership Conference April 13-15 in St. Louis. The activists built skills in generating power at the local level. They began with visioning exercises and then learned how to engage members from the campus to the ballot box.
It was an emotional journey to Memphis for the thousands who gathered there April 2-4 to commemorate the historic sanitation workers’ strike of 1968 and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. But it wasn’t all memories and reverence: AFT leaders and dozens of members joined thousands of other labor activists and community organizers to not only honor civil rights heroes but carry their fight forward, with activist trainings, workshops, rallies and inspirational speeches.