American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, one of the special guests who addressed our convention, fired up attendees Wednesday.
“The more the other side tries to strip people of their inalienable rights, the more Americans are rising up in new wave of movement building,” Weingarten said. “For workers’ rights, for women’s rights, for civil rights and children’s rights, for decent health care and for college that is affordable and public schools that are adequately funded, for safety on the streets and in our schools.”
Weingarten was introduced by Mei-Ling Ho-Shing, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. She was at school on Valentine’s Day this year when a gunman killed 17 students. Now, she’s one of many Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student activists trying to end gun violence.
“In the past few months, I’ve learned you can’t fight alone. You need help,” Ho-Shin said. “Students like me are part of a new movement of activists relying on experienced fighters, experienced activists, to stand arm-in-arm with us.”
In a post-Janus case era, AFSCME and AFT face common challenges. The two unions were among four public service unions – the Service Employees International Union and the National Education Association being the other two – that worked together to oppose the Janus v AFSCME case and build power despite a national right-to-work scenario.
“Janus is both a challenge and an opportunity. It has made all of us stick together like never before,” said Weingarten. “We know that when ASFCME, AFT, SEIU and NEA and other public sector union members work together, we are an indomitable force. So, whether it’s the streets, or the courts, or the voting booth we are sticking together ... we are turning this movement into a movement for enduring change.”
Prior to her election as AFT president in 2008, Weingarten served for 12 years as president of the United Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 2, in New York City. For 10 years, while president of the UFT, Weingarten chaired New York City’s Municipal Labor Committee, an umbrella organization for the city’s 100-plus public service unions. Before heading UFT, Weingarten was a counselor to her predecessor and a high school history teacher.