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Patience—counseled by former Vice President Joe Biden all election week as Americans waited for votes to be counted—finally paid off Nov. 7, four days after Election Day, when Biden won in Pennsylvania and gained enough Electoral College votes to acquire a new title: president-elect. AFT President Randi Weingarten says the union’s leaders and members “can’t wait to get started” on the work ahead “with an administration that will embrace and fight for the values we hold dear.”
The AFT telephone town hall on the eve of Election Day was an opportunity to thank members for their activism and make one more push to get out every last vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. AFT members have shown up in extraordinary ways to get out the vote in this election season. “If we leave everything on the field, then we are going to win,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said. “If we continue to do the extraordinary work that we have done, Joe Biden will be the president.”
Ending on Nov. 1 after a spirited dash through Florida, the AFT Votes bus tour visited thousands of members in 15 states, tapping into excitement for the presidential election and helping our members get out the vote nationwide. AFT President Randi Weingarten, joined most of the way by Secretary-Treasurer Fedrick C. Ingram and Executive Vice President Evelyn DeJesus, hosted every type of event possible while maintaining stringent pandemic protections, from drive-in rallies and car caravans to safely distanced marches, meetings and canvasses.
Social justice is hardly a new concept at the New York State United Teachers, the union for educators in New York. But since George Floyd’s murder and the racial reckoning that’s followed, NYSUT has partnered with the AFT and amped up its commitment to the cause with a plethora of resources and a new education series, “Many Threads, One Fabric,” featuring antiracist thought leaders like Ibram X. Kendi and Peggy McIntosh.
Just ahead of Election Day, members of the AFT Retirees’ Legacy Initiative held a webinar Oct. 23, focused on voter suppression and what can be learned from our history to prevent it in the future. The event included a panel discussion with Stacy Davis Gates, vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union and executive vice president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, along with Keron Blair, executive director of the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools. “We are building on struggle after struggle. We are building on win after win. We hope to build a better, a more just country,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten who joined the discussion.
During a national telephone town hall just days before the Nov. 3 election, Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris urged union members to be sure to cast their ballots. “The future is in our hands,” she said. “When we vote, things change.” The event, organized by the AFT and AFSCME, focused on getting out the vote—and then making sure that every vote is counted. AFT President Randi Weingarten said, “We will have to be defenders of democracy”—even after Election Day.
Election Day is moving closer, and the AFT Votes bus is racking up miles. The get-out-the-vote bus tour rolled through Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, stopping to engage voters, distribute free books, and rally with our members, state and local lawmakers and other union allies. The AFT officers urged support for Biden and Harris and encouraged AFT members to make their voices heard by voting early—either by mail or in person. “We know that if we vote, we win. But we have to get out and vote,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said.
Student debt has been an albatross around the necks of so many individual Americans, even dragging down the economy at large. At a virtual event Oct. 19, AFT President Randi Weingarten and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) talked about the gravity of this crisis and how we could turn it around if we elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in November. “This election is absolutely critical,” said Jayapal, and thanks to young people, educators and labor unions, student debt is on the agenda. “It is a motivating factor for young voters to hear that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are going to take on this debt crisis.”