Healthcare workers in Oregon vote to authorize a strike against Kaiser

Nearly 3,400 healthcare workers from Kaiser Permanente in Oregon moved closer to hitting the picket lines this week after they voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike. The Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals said that 90 percent of its members, whose contracts expired on Sept. 30, voted; 96 percent favored a strike. Safe staffing and wages are at the heart of the contract fight. Instead of presenting proposals to solve the staffing crisis, OFNHP says that Kaiser executives have offered low wages and a “two-tiered” system that would mean new workers would make much less than their colleagues and accelerate the staffing crisis.

Together again, honoring the work of public employees

For the first time since 2017, members of AFT Public Employees came together for a professional issues conference Oct. 8-10 in New York City. It was the AFT’s first in-person meeting since the start of the pandemic, and it drew all three of our national officers to honor and learn from members who had never stopped doing essential work.

AFT settles student debt lawsuit, wins big gains for borrowers

The AFT, AFT President Randi Weingarten and eight individual AFT member plaintiffs have reached a landmark settlement with the U.S. Department of Education in the case Weingarten v. DeVos, and as a result tens of thousands of student loan borrowers can expect imminent relief from their student debt. Under the historic agreement, all Public Service Loan Forgiveness applicants who were denied relief will have an opportunity for their cases to be reviewed, setting public employees across the country, including teachers, nurses and firefighters, on a path to a life-changing reduction or elimination of their crushing student debt burden.

A ray of hope for massive student debt relief

Thousands of public service workers may finally get the student loan relief they were promised, as the Department of Education overhauls its broken Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. At an AFT telephone town hall Oct. 6, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said the overhaul will benefit more than half a million borrowers whose loans were rejected from the program, and thousands of others besides. “You’ve done so much to help our community, and it’s our turn now to serve you,” he told participants in the call.

How you can help pass the Build Back Better Act

AFT President Randi Weingarten leveled with members during our union’s Sept. 28 telephone town hall: Major legislation forming the centerpiece of a prosperous American future faces “lots of obstacles” right now. Weingarten directed members to aft.org/action, where you can click to contact your senators. Or you can get some help writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Click to find out more.

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.