AFT’s 2020 Convention
AFT’s biannual convention took place online this year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic that is resurging in the United States. This allowed members from all over the country to watch and participate from the safety of their own homes, still able to push forward AFT business and recognize members from all over the country for raising their voices, working together, and demonstrating courage.
The event kicked off on Tuesday, July 28, with AFT President Randi Weingarten’s State of the Union address, where she outlined three national crises: a public health crisis, an economic crisis, and a crisis of racial justice. Her solution to all three: activism and elections. We need to walk the walk on confronting racism, we need to protect frontline workers, and we need to elect Joe Biden this year.
Also on the docket Tuesday was the celebration of retiring Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson. Johnson was presented with the Bayard Rustin Award for her inspiring leadership over her five decades as a labor activist.
The second day of the convention started with a video tribute to John Lewis and a panel conversation on racism.
Weingarten recognized the part our white brothers and sisters have to play in working to end systemic racism:
“This should not just be a fight that our Black brothers and sisters have to do themselves. It’s a fight that all of us need to do. And, indeed, white silence has been complicit in discrimination. It’s time to own our responsibility to push for an anti-racist America."
Later in the day, the conversation shifted to our members in Puerto Rico, ways to fight economic inequality, a talk with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and a video from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Both congressional leaders vowed to fight for a COVID-19 relief package that centered on reopening schools safely, protecting frontline workers, and helping families get through this crisis.
Day 2 wrapped up with an official endorsement of Joe Biden for president.
The last day of the convention started with a conversation with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Following that, the AFT honored Diane Ravitch with its Women’s Rights Award. Ravitch then joined a panel discussion on the state of public education with IFT Executive Vice President and Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) Vice President Stacy Davis Gates and AFT-West Virginia’s Vice President Tega Toney.
Next to be honored was the former CTU President and IFT Executive Vice President Karen Lewis.
Before another afternoon of passing resolutions, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden joined Weingarten and three AFT members for a conversation on a range of subjects. He outlined the challenges the U.S. is facing, but was hopeful in that Americans are on the threshold of historic change and opportunity.
“Once we get ahead of this pandemic,” he said, “we can’t just go back to the way we were ... I’m going to do my best not to let you down, I promise.