Mid-July I was honored to represent the GNTA at the biennial AFT Convention in Minneapolis, If you want to be energized and empowered about our profession, this is the way to do it. With the attendance of more than 3,000 members nationwide, the 4-day convention begins at a fast pace and continues that way throughout the four days.
First order of affairs is to review the multitude of resolutions that will be discussed and voted on in the days to come. At first glance, it can be overwhelming as the resolutions address issues and concerns that seem outside of the realm of education. I confess, for a long time I thought of the teachers’ union as a union created solely for the support of our profession and the concerns of our students. However, it quickly became clear that as a union, our focus goes far beyond the brick and mortar of our profession. From the ban on fracking, to the Flint, Michigan water crisis, from immigration and Islamophobia, to gun control, to Black Lives Matter and sepsis awareness/education, the breadth and scope of our union is incredible.
The AFT Convention provides a forum for the voices of all our members throughout the country to be heard. Listening to a teacher speak about the Flint water catastrophe and the long term effects on Flints’ citizens, was bone chilling. Her plea for support for the people of her community and for all communities who may someday face the same end, was heard by all as we voted and passed the resolution to “unequivocally support the repeal of Michigan’s emergency manager law, Public Act 436, and support the Flint community in its ongoing efforts to have Flint declared a federal disaster area.”
‘Si se puede!’ became the rallying cry when raising the issues of improving the outcomes of Latino children and addressing the needs of the Latino community in general. As speakers rose to share their concerns about the Latino communities in their area, the members came together to pass the resolution which stated: “that the American Federation of Teachers will focus its efforts to elevate the importance of Latino issues to the union in three areas: programs and initiatives, policy and campaigns, and communications.”
Additionally, the members unanimously, and strongly, passed a resolution that would “ensure that the union would lobby Congress to remove the congressional block on gun violence research.”
I felt pride in the breadth of issues and concerns that the AFT put its energy and power behind. I felt energized by the commitment and dedication of our members. And, as I marched though downtown Minneapolis with fellow teachers and union members, demanding the respect for Philando Castile who was shot by a police officer not too far from where the convention was being held, and had been an active member of the St. Paul Federation of Teachers, I felt empowered by not only the numbers of members marching, but the passion each had for Philando and all lives being lost to these senseless shootings.
We are the AFT and each day that we stand up against the inequities and inequalities around us, we make the AFT stronger. I am so honored to have been able to attend this year’s convention, and am even more honored to be an active member of the AFT and NYSUT.
With pride and solidarity, Sandi Rosenzweig-Cooper