During a May 19 telephone town hall on how to protect and extend voting rights and access in this presidential election year, AFT President Randi Weingarten told nearly 25,000 participants that the crucial question of 2020 is: “Will we have a free and fair election?” The discussion included Stacey Abrams, founder and chair of the Fair Fight 2020 voter protection organization; Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP; and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the Minnesota Democrat who was a candidate for her party’s presidential nomination and is a co-sponsor of federal legislation aimed at protecting every American’s right to vote.
In anticipation of the third annual World Educational Support Personnel Day, the AFT’s school and college support staff joined their peers from around the world to celebrate the work they do and describe the challenges they face amid the coronavirus pandemic. Hosted by Education International and featuring AFT Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson, the May 15 videoconference drew participants from about a dozen countries one day before World ESP Day.
Faculty and staff from area colleges and universities filled New York City’s midtown May 18 determined to protest the elimination of thousands of adjunct faculty jobs and threats to the City University of New York’s budget. Led by members of the faculty staff union, the Professional Staff Congress, protesters drove cars and rode bicycles festooned with signs reading, “Save Jobs” and “Save CUNY, the People’s University,” keeping a safe distance to deliver their message. With budgets possibly threatened by COVID-19 costs, some CUNY campuses may reduce this vulnerable workforce by as much as 40 percent.
Two months into the widespread shutdowns forced by the coronavirus pandemic, millions of working families are feeling the effects of drastically reduced work hours, layoffs and the highest unemployment since the Great Depression. But for the nearly 12 million immigrant workers around the country who are suffering disproportionately from COVID-19-related economic hardships, more help is needed.
Hillsboro, Ore., a town 20 miles west of Portland, has been fortunate because it has not been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. But nurses and allied healthcare workers at the town’s hospital—Oregon Health & Science University Hillsboro Medical Center—have tested and cared for community members with the virus. So when the hospital decided to stop informing nurses and other workers about confirmed coronavirus exposures and proposed a plan to cut workers’ sick leave and break support staff, nurses were upset. On May 1, more than 100 nurses represented by the Oregon Nurses Association held a protest—with social distancing—in front of the hospital to call attention to the wrong-headed policy decisions.
AFT members gathered May 12 for their ninth week of telephone town halls to discuss confronting the coronavirus pandemic, focusing on rural and small-town America. Before introducing the speakers, AFT President Randi Weingarten welcomed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s relief plan that would keep American families afloat despite the highest unemployment since the Great Depression, and make sure that essential state and local public services keep going. These services are key to safely reopening the economy.
School and college support staff proved again last week why they rank among the most essential workers during the pandemic. Hundreds signed up for a webinar where they shared encouragement and advice on how to keep everything going.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on families and communities across the country, but the crisis has underscored the vulnerability of older Americans in particular. That’s why the AFT sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on May 5, urging him to support and protect America’s older adults, not punish them.
“So many retirees depend on our pension benefits in order to lead an economically secure life. Anything that would endanger those benefits by removing constitutional and regulatory guarantees would diminish and impair the lifestyle that we fought for in union solidarity,” says Tom Murphy, chapter leader for the Retired Teachers Chapter/United Federation of Teachers. “The Senate should enhance, not diminish, the economic needs of retirees as well as in-service union members.”
AFT members, get ready to reduce your student debt. The AFT has partnered with Summer, an organization that helps borrowers with repayment and forgiveness options, and is offering access to the service as a member benefit. Thus far Summer has reduced student debt for AFT members by an average of $170 a month and $57,769 over lifetime loan balances.
As the coronavirus migrates across boundaries and continents, the AFT continues to check in with educator unions around the globe through a series of webinars entitled “AFT International Connects: COVID-19.” On Monday, Ap