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To celebrate Juneteenth, the AFT Retirees Legacy Initiative held a panel on June 17 that featured a discussion about the history and meaning behind the day on which enslaved people learned they were free.
The Many Threads, One Fabric series, sponsored by the New York State United Teachers and the AFT, tackled some thorny topics during panel discussions conducted throughout a year full of pandemic loss and amplified racism. Its final session wrapped up the series with hope, with reflections from members, staff and musical icons Paul Anthony and Doug E. Fresh.
The AFT’s new campaign, “Stamping Out Racism and Hate,” is distributing hundreds of free books about the history of racism and how it affects our lives today. The books—special AFT editions of Stamped—are the young adult version of Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning, co-written by Kendi and award-winning YA author Jason Reynolds. First Book’s Empowering Educators resources will further equip teachers with culturally relevant and racially aware learning and content. The campaign is co-sponsored by the NAACP and First Book.
Technologists at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington began their quest for representation last year after a cybersecurity attack at the hospital and in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though this group had tried to organize before, this time was different. Stacey Streeter, a CT scan technologist, says the pandemic was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” The health professionals, including sonographers, cardiac technicians, interventional technologists and radiologic technologists, recently voted 123-32 to join the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals.
The personal impact of the student debt crisis came to light at the AFT’s town hall May 25, with two members sharing how this national crisis has limited their lives’ trajectory, and how the solutions offered by leading policymakers could make all the difference for them. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has been a leader in the fight for $50,000 of student debt relief, was included on the call.
AFT President Randi Weingarten delivered a landmark address May 13 outlining her vision for reopening schools, helping students recover and reimagining public education, as the country emerges from the COVID-19 crisis. Amid a polarized national education debate and lingering fears among parents over school safety, Weingarten backed the Biden administration’s deployment of billions in federal resources for full five-days-a-week reopening of schools and launched an unprecedented $5 million “Back to School for Everyone” campaign to realize it.
This year, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month takes on more meaning because of an increase in hate crimes, AFT President Randi Weingarten said as she opened the AFT’s May 11 virtual town hall, “Freedom to Thrive: Combating Anti-Asian Hate.” The panel of AAPI leaders outlined the facts on anti-AAPI racism, described its history and considered solutions like the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, bystander intervention trainings, ethnic studies and teaching Asian American history in schools.
There is something powerful happening at George Floyd Square, a place where people go to honor the dead and to protest police brutality, but also a place of change and hope. Building community in a place of trauma, activists—including AFT members and staff—are envisioning a better world and making concrete demands to build it.
Many immigrant workers in Houston were able to make significant strides toward becoming U.S. citizens at a May 1 citizenship clinic sponsored by the AFT, Texas AFT and Houston-area AFT locals and featuring help from attorneys from the Equal Justice Center. Volunteers helped lead participants through the complicated naturalization process and handed out free books for families as well. “We know the naturalization process is daunting,” said AFT Executive Vice President Evelyn DeJesus. “But we are here—presente—to help.”
The COVID-19 pandemic is the most challenging public health crisis the U.S. has seen in decades. In the last year, the pandemic has drastically impacted our members and their families, and our union has lost more than 300 members to COVID-19. For more than a year, nurses and health professionals have strived to provide care for patients while their hospitals and government safety watchdogs have made choices that put them at risk.