The head of a national teachers union urged thousands of delegates gathered in Detroit this weekend to embrace a new kind of unionism that reflects a new reality.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, called it solution-based unionism, and she said it’s the way the AFT must respond to years of cuts to public education and attacks on collective bargaining rights.
It’s a kind of unionism, she said, that “focuses on solving problems, not on winning arguments.” “It unites those we represent and those we serve, and in so doing, it ensures that we don’t merely survive, but we succeed.”
The AFT is holding its annual convention in Detroit – for the first time in more than 30 years – at Cobo Center.
Weingarten, whose speech this morning opened the convention, said solution-based unionism doesn’t mean weakening the union’s traditional strengths.
“Demonstrating for our goals and beliefs, speaking truth to power, organizing, lobbying, being heard at the bargaining table – these are the things we’ve always done, and always will do.”
Weingarten said rampant cuts in education have hurt members in their pockets, through layoffs, furloughs and pay freezes, “and they’ve made it impossible to maintain the same level of quality we have tried to provide.” She said members can blame the usual suspects – anti-union individuals and organizations. But she said it’s no longer limited to just those people.
“More than ever, we need to act in innovative, creative and new ways – simultaneously refuting our critics, advancing our values, connecting with community and proposing solutions. That’s solution driven unionism,” Weingerten said