You have created a mighty, mighty union with mighty, mighty values,” AFT President Randi Weingarten told attendees of the CFT Convention. “You bend the arc towards justice every day. Now we have a fight like never before, a fight to the finish, and we must win.”
Weingarten talked about Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump whipping up bigotry and anger. She acknowledged the anger in the country among people who feel they’ve been shoved aside, and she exhorted people to use anger to fight for fairness.
Unions need to use a new kind of power as well as the traditional kind, Weingarten said. As an example, she cited buying up shares in Pearson Inc, which profits from testing, so as to go to their board meeting in England to pressure them to reform. Another example of using new power is fighting hedge funds that are using public pension money for things not in educators’ public interest. The AFT has released a report of hedge funds that are supporting education “reform” groups that advocate replacing defined benefit pension plans.
Weingarten also mentioned some fights that CFT has been involved in such as AFT Local 2121, the faculty union of City College of San Francisco, dealing with the threat of disaccreditation, and Proposition 30, which Weingarten has pledged to help extend.
“The status quo didn’t want there to be a progressive tax, but you won the Prop. 30 tax fight,” she said. “AFT 2121 took everything that was thrown at them and it became the accreditor on trial, not the college.”
She added that people opposed to unions and public education don’t just disagree with them — they want to eliminate them.
“They think the free market includes buying and selling government,” she said. “Their goal is to destroy the neighborhood public school.”
Talking one-on-one with members is key, Weingarten said, to fight challenges such as the Friedrichs lawsuit, which could end collective bargaining, and the Vergara lawsuit, which seeks to eliminate seniority and due process for teachers, as well as those who fund attacks, such as the billionaire Koch brothers.
“It makes us stronger,” she said. “We are able to look at the Koch brothers and say, ‘We don’t care what you do.’”