The biennial convention is where the AFT’s locals make decisions on the national federation’s leadership and agenda — and with 1.7 million members, the AFT’s agenda has significant influence on the modern labor movement and the communities its members serve.
“It was great to have new delegates at the convention and see the excitement in their eyes to see we are so much bigger than UHP, and that each local coming together makes us stronger than the sum of our parts,” says UHP President Bill Garrity. “My highlight this year was getting to stand on the convention floor again and this time make the amendment to change a resolution to add in all health care professionals and not just nurses. We have been listening. And we want our national to listen as well.”
Resolution 48, from the convention’s RNs/Health Care Workers and Health Care Access/Quality Committee, called for in-service nursing orientation, mentoring, and ongoing education support for nurses. Bill spoke to add more inclusive language expanding the scope beyond nursing to all health care professionals. The resolution passed as amended.
“I’m much more knowledgeable about how there are so many more unions out there, and how we are part of the larger labor movement,” says first-time delegate Liz Figueroa. “And, how much more we need to do.”
Jozii Ruiz, another first-time delegate, also was part of the convention’s women’s rights committee and the Latino caucus.
“I had the opportunity to learn and vote for the resolutions that are necessary throughout the country that would affect our union brothers and sisters,” Jozii says. “I also had the opportunity to participate in classes that I was invited to that provided me additional resources, which I am able to bring back to my peers.”
A recurring theme this year was an emphasis on the labor movement’s role in protecting the values of our nation’s democracy.
"Sometimes you can only see what impacts your union your workplace, but being at the convention showed me in some ways the issues aren’t that different but in other ways the issues other unions are facing are so much greater," says Robin Roark, who also attended the 2018 AFT Convention in Pittsburgh. "It made me grateful for the work our union does for us and made me want to get more involved in the bigger picture."
“I was not sure what to expect as a delegate to my first convention and was very pleasantly surprised by this greatly organized conference,” says Isolde Bates. “It was an eye opener to hear how so many people are still struggling to gain fair wages, benefits and recognition. Listening to the organizers who are working to unionize the Amazon and Starbucks employees and the challenges they are facing gave me a better picture on how important it is to gain understanding of collective bargaining and show appreciation of any labor movement. I am grateful I was able to attend the 2022 AFT Convention as a member of our great union — UHP!”
Among the guests who addressed the convention in-person were First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, both U.S. Senators from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, Amazon Labor Union founder Chris Smalls, AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler, Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, and several Starbucks employees who’ve been organizing, including Jordie Adams from the Vernon Starbucks, one day after her co-workers voted to unionize.
“My experience was very informative to me as a new delegate,” says Recording Secretary Summer Lambert. “I see how it is so important to vote, and how our votes count no matter what you’re voting for.”
“We are at the center of many crises that need solutions,” says first-time delegate Rich Vance. “Our democracy is literally on the ballot and we need to take action. We are all stewards of democracy and with our united voice we can win this fight. I encourage our members to take part in the process and exercise their right to vote.”
Delegates watched a short video telling the emotional story of Otis Moss Sr., a widowed father of five in the segregated South, as he attempted to vote in 1946. Following that, his grandson, the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, took the stage to deliver an inspiring speech, urging the delegates to reclaim our democracy.
First-time delegate Kimberly Ericson says, "All that I can say is WOW, what an experience this convention was! I feel so blessed that I was able to represent my union brothers and sisters at the 2022 AFT convention. I have never experienced voting in a room with my fellow 3,000 union brother and sisters from across the country. I have taken back so much knowledge and the feeling that as a union we can conquer anything together. I look forward to sharing and implementing everything I learned."
“In my second time going to the AFT national convention I still get excited and impressed by the power we hold collectively with our union,” says Gloria Valentino. “We are so lucky to be part of a union in such a time of uncertainty.”
"It was great to be back in person after four years," says First VP for Collective Bargaining Shawn Brown. "The resolutions passed and the conversations in the room showed that we're moving in the right direction for labor but that there's still so much more work to be done."
Over the course of four days, delegates debated and passed resolutions on issues ranging from addressing the promise of public education, to advocating for living wages, to combating the effects of climate change, to tackling the student debt crisis. On Day 3, delegates voted overwhelmingly to re-elect President Randi Weingarten, Secretary-Treasurer Fedrick Ingram, and Executive Vice President Evelyn DeJesus, plus their slate of 43 vice presidents under the Progressive Caucus banner. Among the AFT vice presidents re-elected is AFT CT President Jan Hochadel.
“Our convention theme was ‘reclaiming our future,’” Weingarten says. “It was about lifting up our members for their incredible work, making sure they felt seen and heard, and ensuring they left Boston with the tools to put their values into action and help make their kids’, patients’ and communities’ lives better every single day.”