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NEA, AFT Leaders Give Political Speeches, Boosting Democrats

The two largest teachers unions gave Democrats prominent placement during their national conventions this month, as both unions’ presidents gave thundering speeches featuring partisan messages. 

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) gave a combative address, in which she led delegates in a chant of “vote, vote, vote!” and called the state of American democracy a “10-alarm fire,” even as she disparaged Republicans for being divisive. 

Weingarten blamed “some GOP” politicians and other conservatives for spreading “conspiracies,” and “hateful ideas.” She praised President Joe Biden, and several Democratic governors, while criticizing Republican governors like Scott Walker and Chris Christie.

“Elections matter,” she said. “If we turn the keys back over to Mitch McConnell and the MAGA movement, the consequences will be catastrophic.”

Weingarten also criticized the “extremist majority” on the Supreme Court, and the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

National Education Association President Becky Pringle also criticized the Supreme Court justices, including their decision to recognize the right of teachers and other public employees to engage in private religious acts while at work.

“You know, we’ve known since 2016, since that fateful election, that this day would come. That we would feel the effects of a radicalized Supreme Court issuing decisions that do not reflect the views or the values of America,” she said.

Pringle started her speech by quoting controversial professor and communist Angela Davis, as she called on NEA members to “resist” and “transform boundaries into bridges.”

She also asked teachers to make their voices heard at the ballot box, saying they needed to “defend freedom at its hour of maximum danger.”

“Know this: one in every ten households in this country has an NEA member,” she said, her voice rising to a shout. “And just as we did in the presidential election of 2020, we will make sure you know who we are…. This November, if you get in the way of our progress toward a more just nation, we will get in the way of your election.”

Several Democratic politicians spoke during the conventions. The keynote address at the NEA convention was delivered by Vice President Kamala Harris, while First Lady Jill Biden spoke at the AFT convention.

Suzanne Bates

Suzanne Bates is Senior Writer and Researcher with Americans for Fair Treatment, a community of current and former public-sector workers offering resources and support to exercise their First Amendment rights. Prior to joining Americans for Fair Treatment in 2020, Suzanne worked as a journalist for the Associated Press, as Policy Director with the Yankee Institute, as a contributor for The Hartford Courant, and as a regular commentator for WNPR’s The Wheelhouse.