(via Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers President)
In March 2019, the AFT charted a very different approach to our 2020 presidential endorsement process than in previous cycles, with an emphasis on member engagement first and foremost. And to date, that has generated an unprecedented level of engagement, both with our members and with all of the Democratic presidential candidates.
We tried, by the way, to engage Donald Trump over the last three years on issues of common concern, but he never bothered answering our letters. And Betsy DeVos has demonstrated over and over her antipathy toward public education, student borrowers, educators and school staff.
More than 300,000 members have engaged personally in our election 2020 work so far. And while we are not monolithic, we are one when it comes to our desire to do everything we can to get Trump out of office and to unite behind the Democratic nominee.
As the primary and caucus season heats up, we devoted our most recent executive council meeting to reviewing the candidates’ positions and track records, and our members’ feedback on them. We have had unprecedented direct member engagement with the 2020 candidates: 10 separate candidate town halls, five regional meetings (to date—there are more on the way!), multiple telephone town halls with hundreds of thousands of members around the country, member surveys and polls, and our Public Education Forum 2020. And this doesn’t include what many of our states and locals have done.
Given the state of play in the race, including the number of states holding delegate selections in March, we decided it was time to go from the listening and questioning phase and lean in to the next step—the advocacy piece of this process.
While our members have diverse views on who should be the Democratic nominee, there is no question that AFT members from all over see Donald Trump as an existential threat to the values and aspirations of our families, our communities and those we serve. And while our members have a respect and admiration for Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer, they gravitate toward Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren because of their leadership in public education, affordable higher education, healthcare, labor and civil rights.
Therefore, our executive council is encouraging our members to actively support Biden, Sanders and/or Warren because they share our values, have demonstrated effective leadership through their records, have earned significant support within our membership, and are best positioned to achieve meaningful and lasting victories on the issues that matter to us most.
This resolution encourages members and leaders to become engaged and even provide individual support as they feel compelled to voice their own preferences. While I haven’t announced my personal support for a candidate yet, some of the AFT vice presidents and the other executive officers have. Over the last few days, some AFT vice presidents and other state and local leaders have announced their support for specific candidates, and AFT Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson announced her personal support for Joe Biden this afternoon.
Our union knows that Bernie, Elizabeth and Joe share our values, and we know we can count on them. Each has been a strong and reliable friend and advocate on critical issues such as ensuring safe and welcoming environments in our schools, our hospitals and our communities; investing in public schools, colleges and services that are necessary to fund our future; protecting the freedom to teach and the freedom to care so we can meet our students’ and patients’ needs; fighting for the freedom to live securely on one job’s wages, with a decent retirement and the right to join a union, and without catastrophic healthcare costs or crushing student debt; and fighting the destructive hate, bigotry and divisiveness that is undermining our democracy.
Since we’re encouraging members to get involved in one (or more) of these three campaigns, I wanted to suggest three things you can do:
Run to be a delegate to your party’s national convention, and encourage your members to do the same. Visit AFTvotes.org or contact the AFT’s political department at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Volunteer for a campaign. We encourage you to check out:
Submit a blog post for AFT Voices about why you support a specific candidate.
As educators, healthcare providers and public employees, we have a great responsibility, beyond voting and encouraging others to vote: We are trusted messengers at a time of significant disinformation campaigns that have sown mistrust and division in our country. We know it will be an intense year ahead and the stakes couldn’t be higher.
Thank you for all you do, and will do, for our union and our country. The country needs you, and we are so grateful for you.
P.S. Don’t forget to check to make sure you and your family are registered to vote. Registration deadlines are coming up in various states, so check today.