Even before IFT President Dan Montgomery opened the 2019 IFT CONVENTION last week in Rosemont, there was no doubt that members were ready to get to work!
Nearly 400 IFT delegates and guests gathered from October 18-20 to recognize our successes in the three years since the last convention, focus on the goals ahead, set union policy, and elect statewide officers. If you couldn't attend and didn't follow the action on social media, here are the highlights.
FAIR TAX TAKES CENTER STAGE
The weekend was filled with conversation about how far OUR UNION has come and strategic planning designed to strengthen OUR FUTURE, including the critical need to pass a Fair Tax constitutional amendment in 2020. Delegates approved a resolution and committed to fight to pass the Fair Tax amendment next year. A video, speakers, and informative workshops also focused on developing a successful Fair Tax strategy, while an exhibit booth provided information and asked members to sign a pledge card to help in the effort and receive a free t-shirt.
DELEGATES CHART THE COURSE
Establishing IFT's priorities and guiding vision for the next three years also topped the convention agenda, and electing statewide officers was part of that business. Daniel J. Montgomery (Local 1274) was reelected by acclamation to his fourth term as President, while Stacy Davis Gates (Local 1) was elected by acclamation as Executive Vice President. Jane Russell (Local 571) was also elected by acclamation to serve a second term as Secretary-Treasurer. In addition, delegates voted for 40 IFT Vice Presidents who will serve on the Executive Board and represent their locals and councils around the state. Delegates debated and voted on dozens of resolutions to set the union's direction too. Among those that were adopted by the body include: passing a Fair Tax (see above), the importance of diversity in our workplaces and unions, supporting the needs of PSRPs, improving economic conditions for adjunct faculty, addressing the state’s teacher shortage, investing in public higher education, ensuring safe workplaces for educators and school staff, protecting and supporting immigrant students and their families, encouraging participation in Black Lives Matter at school, expanding transgender-affirming healthcare coverage, and many others. Delegates also voted to adopt constitutional amendments that called for no dues increase in year one and only minimal increases in the following two years, as well as established new classes of associate membership.
GUEST SPEAKERS EMPOWER AND INSPIRE
Illinois’ leader in the Fair Tax fight, Governor JB Pritzker, was the event’s keynote speaker. He thanked the crowd for supporting his campaign and for partnering with him during his first year in office to pass an impressive list of bills that will benefit students and schools, improve state services, and strengthen unions. The governor also advocated for the Fair Tax, saying that to avoid massive cuts to education and programs or a 15 percent increase in the state’s flat tax, "There’s only one choice, and that is to say YES to a Fair Tax." IFT President Dan Montgomery gave his state of the union address, highlighting that our union has thrived in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Janus decision, having more dues paying members now than before the court ruled. The IFT leader also recognized the striking members of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU, Local 1), who bravely took to the picket lines just days before convention to fight for educational justice and the schools Chicago students deserve.
"We are here for you CTU!" declared Montgomery. "Wherever we have members in the struggle, we will be there. If Chicago kids are denied their basics rights, then every kid in every school district is denied theirs too. "This isn’t just about Chicago," he added. "From Kankakee to Peoria to Joliet to our rural districts, the need for adequate resources is a civil rights issue, not just a union issue."
Montgomery also introduced a special order of business to honor former longtime CTU President and retiring IFT Executive Vice President Karen GJ Lewis, who attended to accept heartfelt gratitude from the IFT for her nearly 30 years of service. After delegates were shown a moving video highlighting her accomplishments, Lewis spoke to the standing-room-only crowd.
"I’m not a militant, I’m just an advocate for everybody," she said. "And I want you to advocate for your students, your members, your communities, and for whichever candidates you like. "Remember that nobody is going to give you anything,” Lewis added. “You have to take it."
Other inspiring speakers included IFT Executive Vice President Stacy Davis Gates, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, State Representative Mary Edly-Allen (Dist. 51), retiring Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan, IEA President Kathi Griffin, and AFT President Randi Weingarten.
Social media lit up with posts and photos from Convention 2019! Delegates and guests used the hashtag #IFTStrong to weigh in all weekend on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Selfie stations gave attendees a chance to take fun photos with friends and colleagues, share them on social media, then help build an #IFTStrong Mosaic wall, a collage of the selfies from throughout the weekend.
Now armed with inspiration and ideas from the 2019 IFT Convention, members and locals have headed back to work to continue building OUR UNION and strengthening OUR FUTURE.