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Labor Day 2022

Fun fact, as we celebrate this Labor Day: Unions are cool again. Just this week, a Gallup poll shows that unions are more popular than they have been since the 1960s. Nearly half of nonunion workers say they would join a union in their workplace if they had the chance. And young workers are even more enthusiastic about unions. More Americans are realizing what union members know: Working people are stronger together.

AFT President Randi Weingarten (

Yet today, Americans are 11 times more likely to have an Amazon Prime membership than to have a union card. We must continue to work to expand the American labor movement and redouble our efforts to ensure that all workers—the members of our union and of our broader community—have the voice and agency they need to secure their aspirations and dreams.

It won't be easy. For more than a century, powerful forces have conspired to erode workers' rights and union density in the United States—from robber barons, corporations and conservatives, to union-busting by today's most profitable companies.

Unfortunately, some of these forces also oppose public education and teaching children to have tolerance, empathy, and the skills, knowledge and ability to think critically that they need to achieve their dreams.

These forces oppose unions for the same reason that workers support them—because unions enable workers not just to ask for things from those in power, but to have some power of their own. That power—to secure voice and agency in one's work, better wages, healthcare benefits, paid time off and safe working conditions—can be life-changing.

The labor movement is about bread-and-butter issues, of course, but we are so much more. Labor unions, including the AFT, supported the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I Have a Dream" speech. Indeed, a good union job with decent wages and benefits was as much a ticket to economic security then as it is now. The labor movement is about advancing union members' rights and needs and the needs of our communities; we bargain for the collective and for the common good. We give people a vehicle through which they can take their hopes, their dreams and their aspirations, and turn them into actions.

This is why the AFT fought so hard for the Inflation Reduction Act, which will help drive down the cost of prescription drugs. It's why we pressed for the provision in the American Rescue Plan that secured the pensions of workers retired from mining and manufacturing jobs.

It's why we fight not only for a voice at work but also for a voice in our democracy, and why we fight for safe working conditions not just for ourselves but for the safety of our students, our patients and all the communities we serve.

The AFT is growing. Workers in 70 new units have joined the AFT in the last two years—people who work in charter schools, libraries, colleges and hospitals. The AFT and the American Association of University Professors just came together in a historic affiliation. And we are supporting others' right to organize—workers like those at Amazon and Starbucks.

The AFT is a leader in helping borrowers escape crushing college debt. Our union has offered hundreds of student debt clinics. We sued loan servicer Navient to stop its misleading loan practices. We sued former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to fix the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, and we worked directly with the Biden administration on the latest PSLF fixes and the recent game-changing announcement on student debt cancellation. Through the AFT's advocacy around PSLF, $10 billion of student debt has been forgiven for 175,000 public service workers so far. Here's just one example: This summer, we helped an AFT member in California wipe out her $450,000 student debt. We urge eligible student loan borrowers to apply for a Public Service Loan Forgiveness waiver, even if you have been denied before. Don't delay—the waiver program expires on October 31.

And we are responding to our members' changing needs. The AFT introduced a trauma benefit for members in response to the enormous stress and challenges of these times. We created a legal defense fund for any member who is punished for teaching the truth. AFT members have free access to NewsGuard, a media literacy tool. And we are pressing for necessary investments at the federal, state and local level.  

As we emerge from the pandemic and work to help kids and their families recover and thrive, the AFT's What Kids and Communities Need campaign focuses on the basics. We're working with parents and investing in public schools and the essential knowledge and skills students need. Our unions have given away more than 750,000 books to our students, their educators and their families this year, helping kids realize the joy of reading. All this, despite extremist politicians trying to drive a wedge between parents and teachers by banning books, censoring curriculum and politicizing public education. We're working with states and school districts to solve teacher and school staff shortages, to lower class sizes, to help address trauma and gun violence, and to create safe and welcoming environments in our schools. And we're working with healthcare workers across the country who are dealing with burnout after several years of a debilitating pandemic.

We care, fight and show up in the communities where we live and work. Poll after poll shows that Americans, and parents in particular, overwhelmingly support their public schools and their children's teachers. As we travel the country, we see that incredible support, for educators, nurses and public employees and for the values we represent.

Of course, we know how much elections matter—so much so that some of our own members and leaders are running for office. Like Karla Hernandez, the president of the United Teachers of Dade, who is running for lieutenant governor in Florida, and AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel, who is running for state Senate in Connecticut. Democracy is on the line in the United States. We must elect officials who share our values, who can draw from lived experiences that reflect our own, and who understand that politicians work for us—"we the people."

Our promise, as a union, is to continue to focus on solutions for the people we represent and the people we serve. We have a big job ahead of us this November, because the forces that want to undermine our unions are the same forces trying to undermine democracy and public schools. Let's reject their frame, let's reject their division, let's reject their attacks. We can all rise together.

We are so honored to lead this union and are deeply grateful to the millions of workers who care for our patients, educate our kids and keep our communities safe every day.

This next year is going to be pivotal for our country and the freedoms we strive to protect. We will fight for what our students, patients and communities need. We will act together to build a more just and equitable world and to move hope into reality. That is what you do every single day in your work—as educators, healthcare professionals, public employees, retirees, activists and allies. Thank you for all you do every day, and thank you for being a valued part of the AFT.

Click here to read our post online and share it with your friends.

Thank you again, and happy Labor Day.

In unity,

Randi Weingarten
AFT President

Fedrick C. Ingram
AFT Secretary-Treasurer

Evelyn DeJesus
AFT Executive Vice President

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