By Brendan McFadden
For a long time, a number of BTU members have discussed American Federation of Teachers (AFT) conventions as free vacations (paid for by members). After being elected as a delegate for the Baltimore Teachers Union and attending the AFT Convention for the first time, I can assure you that this viewpoint is wildly incorrect. Attending this convention is an educational opportunity that grants voting privileges to union members to help solidify the supports of the AFT–a responsibility that I take very seriously. Furthermore, as an early career teacher (I still consider 8 years to be early in my career), I was once told that I was too young to be active in my union. Attending this conference not only proved that this comment was out of touch, but the convention re-ignited my fire and passion to push for the changes that our country and educational system so greatly need.
Due to the impact of COVID-19, the AFT Convention took place virtually. Although an in-person conference clearly brings a different feel, the AFT did an incredible job of ensuring that delegates from around the country would unite, share the problems impacting their local unions, and generating and vote on solutions in a truly democratic fashion. Passionate speeches were given by famous authors, Congressmen and Women, Governors, and Presidential Candidates.
What was truly encouraging and moving was the unification from members around the country in pushing for systemic change in terms of the black lives matter movement, economic inequality, police practices, mass incarceration, prison reform, social determinants of health, a green new deal, and presidential endorsements among others. In discussing and voting on ways to support/improve these issues, it was eye-opening in the way the AFT and BTU understand that all issues are educational issues. It is clear that not only the Baltimore Teacher’s Union but AFT is a major force that has the potential to push for radical and necessary change throughout the country.
In the end, one of my largest takeaways from this convention is the major influence that BTU members have on the national platform. A number of our members were able to lead committees as national chairs, organize, submit, speak out in favor of or against resolutions, and help to pass legislation. Furthermore, an incredibly touching moment took place when Dr. Lorretta Johnson, who served as the BTU PSRP chapter president for 35 years and is now the AFT Secretary-Treasurer, received the Bayard Rustin Award for her lifetime of service to our union. It was an incredible honor to act as a delegate on behalf of our union and I look forward to continued service to fight for the education that our students deserve.
Brendan McFadden teaches 8th grade Advanced Academics Algebra I at Roland Park Elementary/Middle School. He was elected as a BTU delegate to this year’s AFT Convention.