Education International
Education International

Amidst attacks on union rights, American educators rally to defend public education

published 11 July 2014 updated 18 July 2014

In an emotionally charged keynote, American Federation of Teachers´ (AFT) President Randi Weingarten called on American teachers to fight forward and fight back.

She alluded to a number of controversial court rulings threatening freedom of association and union rights, reminding the 3,500 delegates present: “When we last met, we didn't know that a court decision in California would reignite the perverse rallying cry of so-called reformers: that the only way for students to win is for educators to lose.”

Fred van Leeuwen, General Secretary of Education International, brought a message of solidarity from the teachers of the world to delegates. “Clearly, the struggle for quality public education in America, the struggle against privatisation, against the restriction of union rights and professional freedoms, has gone global. Education has become a global business. We are not against testing. We invented it. But to help our students grow, not to break them down,” van Leeuwen told delegates.

He also thanked the American Federation of Teachers for standing with educators all over the world, especially in the Ukraine, in Israel and Palestine and in other parts of the Middle East, as well as in Nigeria, in Pakistan and Iraq, where extremist groups try to stop teachers from teaching and students from learning.

Even under severe threat, and sometimes paying the highest price, teachers in these countries – and many others – refuse to close their schools.

“This is a stark reminder of the fact that there is no stronger antidote against extremism than education; and we know that there is no better medication against poverty and no stronger stimulus for economic and democratic development,” van Leeuwen concluded, alluding to Education International´s “Unite for Quality Education” campaign, of which AFT´s “Reclaiming the Promise” campaign is a national manifestation.

“Let there be no mistake about what we aspire to do: to reclaim the promise of America for our students, our families, our communities. Unions have always been the ones fighting to keep that promise throughout history,” Randi Weingarten concluded her keynote.