I purposely waited to send an email to the membership, partly because I’m sure all of you have been bombarded with emotion and partly because I did not know what to say. This past week has sent me through every emotion and brought back painful memories of 2011. I tried to avoid social media but then felt disconnected. However, social media spurred me all over again with rage, sadness and shock. I have read statements by leaders and analysts, listened on multiple conference calls, and nothing provided comfort or understanding. Everyone has opinions on what went wrong, who’s to blame, and what we do now.
Then on Saturday morning, I received my first burst of strength. I ran into a member at the grocery store. This member has a culturally different background than myself, and over the years we have engaged in heated debates on a variety of subjects but we have an endearing respect for each other. After exchanging a bear hug, the member looked me squarely in the eyes and simply stated, “we stand!”
We stand! Unions are workers standing together for fairness, not just for workers but for students, for our communities, for our society. We stand for opportunities, quality, and for a voice. Unions give voice to those oppressed and suffering. And as leaders, we don’t just declare ourselves against oppression and suffering—we listen. We listen to our members, our students, and our communities. Our members are from different backgrounds, races, cultures, religions, and sexualities. We stand together against injustices and the dismantling of systems that embrace diversity, opportunities, and freedoms. Our unions are defined by our values. This is a critically important time to listen and work. We need to reach out to our co- workers, listen to them, and ask them to participate, ask them to stand with the union as we defend our communities.
When I decided to run for your president of AFT-Wisconsin three years ago, I did so because I believe in you. I gain my strength from the passion and commitment of our members. We are there for each other. This is the core of what we have done at AFT-Wisconsin for 86 years and what we have done in our locals since the beginning. In short—we stand! And now more than ever, over the coming months and years, this is what we must continue to do: stand with each other and for each other, in our unions and our communities at large, listening and then acting together to make a better world. Today, I hope each of you will join me in renewing your commitment to, in the words of “Solidarity Forever.”
6602 Normandy Lane
Madison, WI 53719