Speakers Engage Conference Attendees During PAC Luncheon

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CSA Local 1 President Ernie Logan opened the event by announcing that $29,000 had been raised and urging that additional contributions be made to reach the $30,000 mark.

“AFSA is on the move with this PAC,” Logan said. “Contributions to the PAC create the power of the purse for AFSA to get done what we need to get done,” urging attendees to reach out to engage their locals’ retirees “who have the time on their hands to go sit in legislators’ offices and ask them ‘Why are you trying to take away what I worked so hard for?’”

Elise Bryant engaged the audience in song and shared anecdotes about her experiences in the Detroit public schools where she was challenged by tests but inspired by teachers and a principal who saw talent in her.

She encouraged the concept of democratic leadership to deal with the challenges of insecurity in the schools and public spaces. She reinforced the concept of public schools as the essential component of a viable democracy.

“The most effective schools she has experienced in her research,” she said, were those in that engaged the administrators, parents and community at large. “Life is more than our work, and work is more than our job,” she said.

She concluded by leading the audience into the singing “Solidarity Forever.”

Joslyn Williams, President of the Metropolitan Washington Council AFL-CIO, hailed the timeliness and significance of the convention theme, Engaged Leadership for a Brighter Future.

He sighted the loss of union membership in several states as a sign of the challenge that unions confront in the face of assaults on their rights by politicians and businesses.

“Public pension funds are being raided, school budgets are being stretched, more students are in teachers’ classrooms, and our schools are becoming more dangerous than Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran.”

He dubbed “school traumatic syndrome” as the name for these dangers. “You and your union must be at the table in any discussion that takes place affecting you and your students.” That requires involvement in politics and in communities, he asserted.

“We do not have the luxury of sitting this out,” he averred. “You owe it to the future of the schools and children to make sure that only politicians who ‘get it’ get elected, and when they don’t [‘get it’], put them in the unemployment line.”

He urged luncheon participants when they return home to make sure all their members are registered to vote, as only 60 percent of union members are currently registered voters. He also urged participating in candidate screening committees set up by central labor councils and state federations.

“You must be sure that your issues are in the forefront of the questions being posed to candidates,” he declared. “A politician who does not meet your standards should not get the two thirds endorsement required for the union endorsement.”

He also urged identifying and working with community allies, owing to the low level of union membership in the workforce at large. “Who better to lead that coalition than educators?” he asked.

“If we do not get engaged,” Williams intoned, “the American dream will become a nightmare. And we are not going to let that happen!”