Looking back at last year, I can only say this – it was unlike any we’ve ever known and surely the most difficult one of our lifetimes. From the pandemic and its devastating, far-reaching consequences to the murder of George Floyd by police and the resulting social unrest to the constant lies and inaction from then-President Trump, every day was a stress and challenge, both physically and emotionally, personally and in our unions. The pain has been real and deep.
In the midst of it all though, I have never been prouder of or more inspired by the members of this union. No matter where you work or what job you do, you adapted to the new normal the virus forced upon us. You faced the challenges, overcame them, and got the work done under the most difficult of circumstances. You stepped up for your students and communities in countless, inspiring ways. You proved that you are truly heroes.
At the same time, you led the fight in your locals and councils to demand that your schools and workplaces were safe and that your colleagues, students, and Illinois residents were protected from the virus. In some cases that meant tough fights to allow for remote learning when officials demanded a return to unsafe in-person instruction.
You worked harder than ever leading up to the November elections to get-out-the-vote for IFT-supported candidates in Illinois and Washington D.C. who share our values and priorities. Your efforts were invaluable and made a difference in important elections, including the race for president.
At the same time, you remained focused on our collective work to increase equity and inclusion in our state and local unions.
Watching IFT members accomplish so much during such a difficult year gives me hope for the one ahead.
We know we’re not out of the woods yet on several important fronts. The virus continues to rage, and we must remain vigilant in protecting ourselves and others. We continue to grapple with profound racial justice and economic crises. And our state is facing significant budgetary issues under the weight of the pandemic that must be addressed.
Despite these serious challenges we still face, I am confident that much better days are coming.
With the ongoing distribution of vaccines we can finally dare to hope for an end to the horrific loss of life from the pandemic. We can feel confident that we will (eventually) get back to a real recovery where we are determined to make sure our world is in better shape than before COVID. And we can look forward to going back to classrooms and workplaces when we know they are safe once again.
The inauguration of the Biden/Harris team also gives me tremendous hope. It means an end to four dark years under Trump and the return of decency, civility, and a call for unity. It means our nation will have the will and courage to face its racial justice issues head on. And it means workers and our unions will be valued and respected again by our country’s leaders.
After a brutal 2020, it feels good to look ahead to those things with a bright perspective. It’s as if we’ve collectively emerged from a long, dark tunnel into at least a patch of sunshine. I’m sure many of you feel the same way.
We’ll continue to face major challenges in 2021, and I don’t suggest that they’ll be easy to overcome. But I’ve seen firsthand during times of crisis that our members are resilient and never give up. If we can handle 2020, we can handle anything!
Working together in the year ahead, I know that we’ll continue to work towards our goals and accomplish great things on behalf of our colleagues and the kids and citizens we serve. I look forward to working with you all. I wish you all good health in the year ahead.
In solidarity and with gratitude for our union,
Dan Montgomery | IFT President