AFT - American Federation of Teachers

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AFT Resolutions

PUSHBACK: FIGHTING FOR ECONOMIC JUSTICE

WHEREAS, the global financial crisis and widening political and economic inequality worldwide have devastated economies and threatened the rights of workers and the welfare of all citizens; the International Labor Organization estimates job loss since the crisis at a staggering 50 million workers worldwide; the unemployment rate in the United States nearly doubled in two years due to the financial crisis; and according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the income gap between the richest and poorest Americans is the widest in history; and

WHEREAS, the advent of this drastic new economic and political reality has been accelerated by the rapid movement of capital around the world, at times without regulation or control, while international trade agreements have further weakened governments' ability to protect labor and environmental rights; and

WHEREAS, governments in many countries have passed on the burden of this financial crisis to ordinary citizens, while billions of dollars of public money have been spent to bail out banks and multinational corporations that were largely responsible for the creation of the crisis; two-thirds of European nations face harsh austerity budgets with cuts in public spending as high as 25 percent in places like the United Kingdom, and 300,000 public sector jobs have been cut in Italy, and one-fifth of government workers in Greece have been laid off; meanwhile, the United States is still more than 7 million jobs in the red, according to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and 680,000 public employees in the United States have lost their jobs since 2008; and

WHEREAS, political attacks against public employees and their trade unions, against working families and their communities, and against the poor and the disenfranchised are tearing at the fabric of our communities; economic insecurity and job loss are disproportionately affecting young people, women and minorities; youth unemployment is near 50 percent in Spain and Italy; while in the United States, nearly 25 percent of children are living in poverty, and the Pew Research Center estimates that Latinos and African-Americans have lost more than 50 percent of their median net worth since the financial crisis began; and

WHEREAS, in response, hundreds of thousands of workers, students and people from all walks of life have taken to the streets in cities around the world to push back—to protest the cuts in salaries, benefits and pensions, and to reverse the decline in public investment for infrastructure, healthcare, public safety and education, as well as to give voice against the unemployment that has risen across two-thirds of Europe; and

WHEREAS, the financial crisis has been used as an excuse to strip public employees of bargaining rights not just in Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin but also in Greece, Ireland and Portugal, where economic tension is being used as an excuse for anti-democratic and anti-labor measures; the initial evidence is that government-imposed austerity programs in France, Great Britain and Spain have failed to stem unemployment; and

WHEREAS, we cannot allow austerity plans, whether originating from international capitals or our own state capitals, to set back the cause of today's workers, nor can we break faith with those who have now moved into their retirements. We must be honest in placing blame for this economic crisis where it belongs—not on the backs of working men and women, but on the complicity of politicians and the American financial sector which resulted in the violation of our trust; and

WHEREAS, last year, the voters of Ohio sent a message to their state government and to the world that teachers, firefighters, police officers, hospital workers and all public employees are the soul of our communities, and that these workers deserve the right to negotiate fair wages and decent benefits that grant a respectable standard of living; and

WHEREAS, the freedom of workers to organize without interference and repression is vital to a fair economy.

Therefore:

  • We recognize women and men around the world who have fought and sacrificed for political and economic justice, from Trafalgar Square in London, to Capitol Square in Madison, Wis.; from Puerta del Sol in Madrid, to Occupy Wall Street in New York City. We will push back against government austerity measures and so-called reforms that impoverish workers and erode essential public services; and
     
  • We assert that reducing inequality is not just the moral thing to do, but that it can contribute positively to rebuilding our communities and our economies. We will stand for jobs and a global full-growth economy; for education, healthcare and public services as the foundations of our communities; and for the view that the 1 percent must bear responsibility and contribute to building a future of equality and fairness; and 
     
  • We refuse to retreat to a time when working men and women were denied a place at the table, and we refuse to yield decades of hard-won rights. We know that unions in a democracy are part of the solution, and we have said time and again that we are willing to move forward by making the toughest decisions together:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers will:

  • Support the movement for fair tax reform that will raise greater revenue from upper-income groups and corporations, close tax loopholes and repatriate corporate profits back to the United States; and
  • Support legislation for a transaction tax on business conducted in financial markets, which has the potential to raise billions of dollars to reduce the deficit, and is in some form already in place in more than 30 countries; and
  • Urge the U.S. government not to delay in committing more resources in the drive for economic recovery, high-quality education, affordable housing and universal healthcare—all important in the long-term fight against poverty and inequality; and
  • Urge the U.S. administration to carry the message that austerity programs and other harsh economic cutbacks are not options that will stimulate recovery or ensure quality public services for all our people and
  • Urge the U.S. government to pass the Employee Free Choice Act to ensure that working people can create and join unions of their choosing and assert their rights in the workplace without facing interference and repression from their employers; and
  • Join our brothers and sisters in the global labor movement, in both the public and private sectors, in advancing economic dignity and fighting back against wrong-headed solutions—protecting democracy by ensuring that workers' voices are heard in the workplace, at the bargaining table, in our communities and capitals, at the ballot box and in the streets.

(2012)