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Welcome to union convention season

The following is an excerpt from our Saturday email, which includes our musings on the latest developments impacting public employees, links to that week’s labor news, and a collection of whimsical reads for your weekend. If you’d like to receive our weekly email, you can use the sign-up form at the bottom of this page. We promise to respect your inbox, and we will never share your email address.

If you don’t have a work Slack channel dedicated to sharing obscure articles about public unions like I do, you may be totally unaware that we’ve settled into the most quote-worthy season of the year: union convention season!

Throughout June and July, AFT, NEA, AFL-CIO, AFSCME, and UAW all held their annual conventions. The hypocrisy could not be more apparent.

Let’s start with AFL-CIO’s June convention.

In the first session, Yale Professor Timothy Snyder said unions are the best examples of “civil society” because they “stood between the government and the people” and the unions gave “people practice in representing themselves” and using and defending their “right to vote.”

But as journalist Jerry White points out in his article for the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS), Professor Snyder directed these comments toward a room full of union leaders “who routinely trample over the democratic will of their members.” (I know what you’re thinking, but the WSWS is definitely a source to check out…keeping their biases in mind while you read, of course.)

So what about the teachers unions? Well, we know that AFT President Randi Weingarten never disappoints.

During the convention, Weingarten 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. 

Ironically, the day before her speech, Weingarten tweeted the results of recent AFT polling:

Nearly 9 out of 10  respondents say schools have become too politicized, following a year of political attacks on teachers waged by politicians stoking culture wars and banning books for political gain.

Clearly, the respondents didn’t mean her contribution to the politicization. *eyeroll*

The president of NEA, Becky Pringle, was similarly political at the NEA convention. 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.”

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Isabel Blank

Isabel Blank is Communications Director at Americans for Fair Treatment, a community of current and former public-sector employees offering resources and support to exercise their First Amendment rights. Prior to joining Americans for Fair Treatment in 2021, Isabel worked in media relations at Travelers Insurance and held government affairs and communications roles with Yankee Institute. She has a master’s degree in public administration and a bachelor’s degree in political science and Spanish, both from the University of Connecticut (Go Huskies!). Isabel loves Crossfit and supporting her local Connecticut breweries.