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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”