Jonathan Halabi at the AFT. The wrap up.

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Jonathan Halabi (left) and Arthur Goldstein cover the AFT for their blogs.

-Jonathan Halabi is a New York City teacher, union activist and blogger at JD2718. I have been reposting his reports from the American Federation of Teachers convention in Minneapolis which wrapped up last Thursday.

AFT Convention 2016. Ended three days ago. What do I take away from Minneapolis?

This was a better convention then my two previous. It was very different from my two previous, 2010 and 2014.

  • There was a presidential endorsement. Which meant a lot of supporting speakers, the usual cast of politicians, plus the candidate. That was different, neither better nor worse, just what the AFT does. But it ran through the convention, from the first day to the last, with regular digs at the RNC in Cleveland.
  • Social Justice. Fairness. Equality. Fight back against hospital consolidation (and conglomeration). ¡Si se puede! Remove block on funding for research on gun violence. Support work of the AFT Racial Equity Task Force. No more Flints. Stand with Planned Parenthood. Girls and Young women’s education. And a special order of for safe communities and racial justice (these should have been separate resolutions. I mentioned in a previous post that the motivation for this was the most electric speech of the convention).
  • Economic Justice. Against income inequality. Oppose the TPP. Crackdown on offshore tax havens. End out-of-control drug prices. Rein in abusive medical billing and crippling debt. Overturn Citizens United. Fight against student loan debt. Ending garnishing social security to pay student debt.  Planning for the wave of state and local public employee retirements. Paid sick days. More accurate COLA for Social Security. Protect and expand the Social Security Safety net. Full funding.
  • Fighting in education and nursing. Fight against unfair employment practices in higher education. Sepsis awareness. Professional standards for healthcare workers. Support, respect PSRPs. Summer nutrition programs. Safe schools for all. Organizing (three resolutions)
  • No hot K-12 issues. My previous two conventions were dominated by the ruling caucus from the UFT, Unity, introducing and fighting for pro-reform k-12 resolutions. Last convention Michael Mulgrew threatened to punch anyone who tried to take away “Common Core.” This time? Nothing like that. The ESSA resolution was positive/neutral. And the CTE resolution was positive. And the AROS resolution got a lot of attention from progressive unionists.

ESSA Resolution Highlights:  Fight for Neighborhood Schools (what a change that would be for NYC), elevate teacher voice, framework of indicators broader than test scores, better and fewer tests, better teacher evaluation / multiple measures / no value added (still not good enough, but a huge step back from a few years ago), good PD (ugh)…

What is AROS? Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools. It coordinates union/community action in support of public schools, and has organized two major national “walk-ins” (not walk-outs). The resolution promises support for local action, and builds for coordinated local action involving at least 1000 schools in October.

An equivocal charter resolution did not come to the floor. The AFT leadership is not ready yet to oppose charters (or oppose high stakes testing). But they did have the sense not to push their unpopular positions forward and disrupt the proceedings.

Reasonable resolutions are one thing, undoing the damage the AFT contributed to by trying to compromise with the reformers over the last decade is another. We are not there yet.

  • More negotiating in committee, or outside of committee, less yelling on the convention floor. More talking and testifying on the floor. That’s just what happens when there’s fewer hot issues. People got up and spoke to resolutions that might not have been paid much attention – and explained why they were important. It meant we heard from a lot of regular delegates, from all over the country. That was good, very good. There was only one, marginal caucus in opposition. Their procedural arguing got tiresome, but not disruptive.
  • No pro-war resolutions. We had a resolution against the global privatization of education and public services, and an anti-Islamaphobia resolution. What a nice change from previous years when we had to listen to official speakers channel the war criminal Dr. Kissinger. Unfortunately, the resolution to support academics in Turkey did not make it to the floor. And as the convention opened, Turkey’s government was stretching their counter-coup into the schools and universities. That being said, the resolution would have done little more than raise awareness.

Summary:  The AFT was consumed by the presidential endorsement, and kept the rest calm. The convention did a solid job on social justice, racial justice, and economic justice. The AFT is not yet ready to reverse course on the bad compromises they made with anti-public education reformers in the last decade plus, but they are slowly backing away.

Here is a link to many of the resolutions.

Here’s my tweets from the convention:  @jd2718x

Here’s my blog posts:

There’s one more post coming – about visiting Minneapolis, about meeting people, about sightseeing, about food, about conversations (don’t worry, if you are reading this, I’m not writing about that conversation)… but this is it on the big issue politics.

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