So many AFT members are longtime heroes, habitually putting their students, patients and others they serve before their own needs. This week AFT honored two members who have been particularly courageous: Michael Shunney, who led his students as they made hundreds of face shields to protect frontline workers from the coronavirus, and Katie Hyland, who joined a lawsuit against Navient to fight student debt and make college more accessible to more people.
One of the nation’s most trusted experts on the coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, joined AFT President Randi Weingarten for a July 28 virtual town hall on Facebook Live to answer questions from AFT’s educators and health professionals. The questions ranged from how to approach the reopening of schools to the possibility of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The passion and power of AFT activism shone brightly July 29 as AFT Executive Vice President Evelyn DeJesus kicked off a discussion of economic issues for working families. “Today I would like to talk about our sisters and brothers in Puerto Rico and how, in the AFT, we care, we fight and we show up for these members,” she said. “We showed up after hurricanes in 2017. We showed up after the earthquakes early this year. And now we are fighting together in this COVID-19 pandemic.”
On their first day of business, delegates at the AFT convention passed four resolutions addressing a range of topics: guidelines on safely reopening child care and early childhood education post-pandemic, a path to a safe return to work for public sector employees, the continuing fight against private prisons and mass incarceration, and a tribute to outgoing AFT Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson. They also expanded AFT retiree participation with a new program and policy council.
During the coronavirus pandemic, AFT members are stepping up to meet the needs of the people they serve. The AFT honored two members who earned the national spotlight with their efforts: Yolanda Fisher, a food service manager, who prepared and packaged meals for Dallas students and their families while schools were closed because of the pandemic, and Trung Le, a registered nurse, who spoke up about the need for personal protective equipment in hospitals.
This year’s virtual format for the AFT Retirees conference—due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic— provided an opportunity for more than 500 retired AFT members and guests to safely gather online July 23 to focus on activism and organizing. The meeting also amplified the AFT Retirees program’s message that activists never retire, and it’s never too late to become an activist or ally.
The coming school year may start one way and end another, but what AFT school and college support staff know for sure is that they intend to be at the table when decisions about the school year are made. That was the message on July 15 when the AFT PSRP program and policy council brainstormed ways they’re adapting to upheavals caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
As Congress begins negotiations on a desperately needed new wave of federal stimulus, the AFT has released an analysis revealing the hundreds of billions of dollars in urgent assistance necessary to stop record layoffs at public schools and colleges and to protect students and educators from the coronavirus. "A Time to Act: The Importance of Investment in Public Education and Other State and Local Services in the Time of COVID-19" calculates the need to fill a gaping $93.5 billion preK-12 funding gap and $45 billion higher education funding shortfall caused by the country’s economic slump, and identifies an additional $116.5 billion to keep schools and colleges as safe as possible from the coronavirus.
Rise Up for Equity was a month-long summit designed to explore the importance of community schools in today's American public education landscape—and their history. The AFT was a sponsor. The events brought together classroom educators, scholars, community activists and AFT members from every corner of the U.S. When the pandemic struck, the June experience went virtual, and also took on an entirely unexpected subject: how to educate students and support their families in a new era of stay-at-home orders.
As if their struggles for adequate funding were not already challenging enough, public colleges and universities’ budgets have been strained like never before due to the coronavirus pandemic. Many are starting to lay off faculty and staff, denying students the services they need now more than ever. Unions are fighting back at the university level and at the federal level advocating for HEROES Act funding and more.