On the evening of May 3, 1963, millions of Americans and people around the globe saw televised images of schoolchildren and young people getting blasted with high-powered fire hoses and attacked by police dogs on the streets of Birmingham, Ala. Those shocking images helped awaken the conscience of the nation and convince President John F. Kennedy to propose federal legislation that was enacted on July 2, 1964, as the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The historic Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed in August one year later.
Frontline nurses and healthcare workers, who are members of the Oregon Nurses Association and Service Employees International Union 49 rallied outside Columbia Memorial Hospital in Astoria, Ore., on June 24 to demand hospital administrators invest the federal coronavirus relief funds they received in essential healthcare workers and community health and safety.
"Nurses, healthcare workers and support staff are doing the best we can, but we can’t keep adding patients without bringing back our co-workers to help care for them. Our patients and staff deserve a hospital that invests in its community and chooses people and safety over profits,” said Angie Tucker, a nurse at the hospital and an ONA member.
The Supreme Court’s June 30 ruling to allow public dollars to be spent on religious schools “threatens both public education and religious liberty” and is a “radical departure from our Constitution, American history and our values,” says AFT President Randi Weingarten. The case, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, is expected to have national implications. It allows Montana to use voucher-like scholarships supported by state tax credits to help families pay for religious schools.
Student debt has soared to $1.7 trillion, and the triple crises facing the nation—the coronavirus pandemic, the economic recession and systemic racism—have not helped. At a telephone town hall June 23, AFT President Randi Weingarten led a lively discussion describing the many ways the AFT is tackling this challenge and making progress: with "right now" help for borrowers, successful lawsuits against bad actors like Betsy DeVos, and efforts to change federal policy.
Since its founding in 2011, Washington, D.C.’s Mundo Verde Bilingual Public Charter School has racked up an impressive number of firsts: It was the first green charter school to open in the city. Then it became the first charter school in the city to ratify a first contract after forming a staff union. At the same time, Mundo Verde opened another new bilingual school nicknamed Calle Ocho which led to another first: Calle Ocho became the first D.C. charter school to organize its own union in the midst of a pandemic. But that part wasn’t so easy.
Hundreds of nurses and community members turned out for early-morning picketing outside the Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, N.J. on June 22. During the picket, passersby blared their car horns in support of the nurses who were protesting the lack of progress in bargaining a new contract with Hackensack Meridian Health. Health Professionals and Allied Employees represents 1,300 nurses at Jersey Shore; their contract with the hospital expired on May 31.
“The public calls nurses ‘heroes,’ but the proposals from HMH don’t reflect that,” says Adam Witt, a nurse and president of HPAE Local 5058 at Jersey Shore. “We deserve respect for our hard work, sacrifice and commitment.”
As schools begin planning to reopen in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, AFT members are working hard to ensure the people most heavily impacted—educators, students, parents and local communities—are part of the conversation. With parent surveys, telephone town halls and the AFT’s guide to reopening, which can be tailored to districts’ specific needs, members are striving not just for a safe reopening, but to improve the racial inequities laid bare by the pandemic.
The AFT executive council has passed a groundbreaking resolution, “Confronting Racism and in Support of Black Lives,” that lays out 19 commitments to combat systematic racism and violence against Black people, including the separation of school safety from policing and police forces.
State employees in Colorado have won a historic victory as the governor signed a first-ever collective bargaining bill June 16. The new law gives state employees the freedom to come together in a union and bargain for wages, benefits and working conditions to improve public services.