Florida humanities faculty fear for the profession

When a professor and union leader learned his contract would not be renewed at Lake-Sumter State College in Florida, his union stepped right up, not just to try to save his job—which was all but tenured—but also to protect the social science courses he taught. For now, though, all anthropology, archaeology and geography classes there have been eliminated—an indication of the challenges the United Faculty of Florida continues to face in a state where academia and its unions are under fire.

Educator health and well-being campaign kicks off

The AFT launched an educator health and well-being campaign on Sept. 20, offering a workshop full of practical, education-related techniques to manage the stress educators face—even as they try to help students manage their own stress. The multiyear campaign is one way the AFT is helping educators who continue to face challenges related to COVID-19, such as hybrid learning, vaccine resistance and shifting school protocols. An online sharing community and a collection of professional development resources are also on tap.

AFT grant helps Perth Amboy Federation promote vaccinations, literacy

AFT-NJ’s Perth Amboy Federation of Teachers is using its Return, Recover and Reimagine grant from the national union for a vaccination and literacy campaign, teaming up with an ever-growing group of community organizations to do trusted, effective outreach. At an Aug. 11 event at the Raritan Bay Area YMCA, AFT-New Jersey President Donna M. Chiera and Perth Amboy Federation President Patricia Paradiso—both longtime teachers in the district—distributed books to grown-ups and kids alike who received a COVID-19 vaccine that day.

Words of wisdom mark AFT back-to-school town hall

Five top experts on education and health met with AFT President Randi Weingarten for a virtual town hall Aug. 31 to offer insights on how to make this year’s return to school safe, meaningful and productive for all students. U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, whom Weingarten called “a voice of reason and expertise,” led off by recognizing what everyone has been through and sharing his knowledge of the emerging science behind the new delta variant of the virus that causes COVID-19. Murthy was joined by Dr. Samira Brown, a leading pediatrician; Dr. Pamela Cantor, founder and senior science adviser, Turnaround for Children; Dan Domenech, executive director of AASA—The School Superintendents Association; and Nathan Monell, executive director of the National PTA.

Member town hall showcases ‘Back to School for All’ campaign

As students and staff head back to school, AFT activists gathered Monday evening, Aug. 23, for a telephone town hall with AFT President Randi Weingarten. Teachers have done everything society has asked of them to contend with the pandemic, she said, but between the resurgence of COVID-19 and other disasters, “it feels sometimes like we go from plague to plague.” In the midst of all this, students and staff are returning to school with joy, excitement and safety measures.

Nurses work in coalition to save their maternity unit

Last summer, executives at Windham Hospital in Willimantic, Conn., announced that it would seek approval from the state to end labor and delivery services at the facility, citing that the request for closure was the result of years of declining births and recruitment challenges. Brenda Buchbinder, a member of Natchaug Hospital Unions United, disagrees. The hospital claims that women are choosing to have their babies at other hospitals in the region, she says, but “they didn’t choose to go elsewhere. Our choices were taken from us. Buchbinder and other community activists, including AFT Connecticut, came together to form a grassroots coalition—Windham United to Save Our Healthcare—to protest the decision to end the service by Hartford HealthCare, the multibillion-dollar health system that owns Windham Hospital.

Weingarten: ‘The right to vote is sacred for all of us’

AFT leaders and members turned out for voting rights rallies in four cities over the weekend as the Fighting for Our Vote coalition kicked off a long-term campaign against voter suppression and for passage of sweeping federal voting rights legislation. “The right to vote is sacred for all of us,” AFT President Randi Weingarten told the crowd at a rally in Cleveland. AFT Secretary-Treasurer Fedrick Ingram spoke to union and civil rights activists in Milwaukee. Other rallies took place in Detroit and Washington, D.C.

Back to School for All tour emphasizes safe return to classrooms

As she crisscrosses the country on the Back to School for All tour, AFT President Randi Weingarten has carried the message that students need to be in schools this fall and that we must continue to advocate for health and safety mitigation measures. Along the way, she has seen how the AFT’s $5 million grant program is supporting 70 projects across 28 states and territories covering communities with 20 million students aimed at getting all students safely back together with their teachers in their classrooms. A common element of every one of these events is making a safe and healthy return to school.

Bill to rebuild public structures moves ahead

The Senate gave a big bipartisan thumbs-up on Aug. 10 to a $1 trillion infrastructure bill that would rebuild the nation’s rickety roads and bridges, expand broadband internet and create buffers against the climate crisis—all key parts of President Joe Biden’s promise to “build back better.”

AFT joins ‘Fighting for Our Vote’ campaign

AFT President Randi Weingarten joined with the NAACP and other progressive groups this week to launch what she called “an endeavor to save American democracy.” The “Fighting for Our Vote” campaign will focus on access to the ballot across the nation with particular emphasis on states and cities that have passed restrictive voting laws. Speaking at a news conference, she said, “We should believe totally together—all of us—that every single vote counts.”