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USA: AFT endorses Clinton as it marks centenary

published 19 July 2016 updated 25 July 2016

The American Federation of Teachers kicked-off its 84th Convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota by welcoming Hillary Rodham Clinton. The AFT supports Clinton to be elected as President of the United States in November.

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten delivered a forceful case for Hillary Clinton at the biennial convention, under the banner of ‘Generation to Generation - honoring our past, inspiring our future’. She also hailedthe 100-year-old union as a vehicle empowering its more than 1.6 million workers at the bargaining table and the ballot box. The conference takes place from 18-21 July.

Addressing over 3,000 delegates, Weingarten commemorated the AFT’s enduring values and its century of collective action to make the country a more fair and just place. She described the union as a bulwark against public figures such as Donald Trump and others who exploit Americans’ anxieties “and turn scapegoating into an art form.”

This year’s US presidential election is “a moment of reckoning for our country”, she said, adding that the choice facing voters in the autumn is “a battle for [America’s] soul and for our children’s future”.

Clinton ‘puts unions front and centre’

“Hillary [Clinton] understands the most urgent issues confronting our country,” Weingarten said. “Her bold economic plan puts unions front and centre. She will level the playing field for the middle class, raising incomes for hardworking families, creating debt-free college for students, and lifting children out of poverty.”

Union a vehicle for justice Weingarten lamented the gun violence that claims 33,000 lives in America per year — violence that took the lives of three police officers in Baton Rouge the day before her address. “We must never accept that mass murders or indiscriminate killings are the new normal,” she said.

Describing America as “awash in guns”, Weingarten argued that “working to make the criminal justice system more just and supporting police are not mutually exclusive”. The AFT “is our vehicle in this journey for justice. It was that vehicle in 1916, it is today, and, because of you, it will be in the century ahead”.

Click here to view the full text of AFT President Weingarten’s speech.

Clinton: Teachers “will be my partners”

After both Democrat US senators from Minnesota, Al Franken and Amy Klobuschar, made the case for greater collaboration with teacher unions and strong public education systems, and voiced their support and respect for the teaching profession, the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton took the floor.

“My programme is TLC, which stands for Teaching, Learning and Community,” she explained. “I will defend your right to bargain collectively and stop the move to privatise public services, working with you.

“Teachers, we ask so much of you and give you so little in return. When I am president, you will be my partners and always get a seat at the table.”

The AFT was the first national trade union to endorse Hillary Clinton for President, since then actively engaging in her campaign.