The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) held its biennial convention from 7 to 11 July in Seattle, USA, bringing together more than 3,000 teacher activists under the theme “Building Futures Together”. The AFT is a key organisation within the US Child Labour Coalition, an associate member of Global March, and its commitment to the cause was further portrayed following the adoption of a significant resolution on the elimination of child labour and support for Education For All (EFA).
The resolution (please click here to download full text) highlights the numbers of children still working in the world and those in hazardous work as well as those still missing out on education, emphasising the critical link between the incidence of child labour and improving access to good quality, public education. It also points out that eliminating child labour will lead to an expansion of decent work opportunities for adults and the vital importance of improving access to education of girls.
The AFT also turns the spotlight on the US government and its failure to live up to its financial commitment through foreign assistance to the provision of basic education and also the loopholes in US labour legislation that allow around 500,000 children to work in agriculture throughout the US. The organisation will mobilise its members to lobby the US Congress to pass the Education For All Act and call on the Obama Administration “to take leadership in the creation of a fully funded Global Fund for Education”. Among others, the AFT also commits itself to supporting awareness-raising and education activities to inform the public about child labour and to put pressure on governments and companies to end the exploitation of children.
In welcoming the resolution, Kailash Satyarthi, Global March Chairperson stated: “This is a powerful example of global solidarity and the incredible commitment of teachers and their organisation, the AFT, in the USA to ensure the realisation of the Millennium Development Goal on universal primary education and the goal to eliminate and prevent child labour worldwide. The AFT has always been a strong and influential supporter of these development issues and I congratulate its leaders and members in adopting this resolution and expressing its ongoing commitment to helping vulnerable, marginalised and exploited children everywhere.”
The AFT also celebrated reaching its 1.5 million member milestone at its convention. This new membership figure is especially significant given the tough economic and labour environment workers face. Combined with the leadership of President Randi Weingarten, who was re-elected in Seattle, these numbers keep the AFT firmly in place as one of the fastest growing AFL-CIO affiliates.
US teachers’ organisations unite in calling for increased global education investment
In the lead up to the G8 and G20 Summits in Canada in June 2010, AFT President Randi Weingarten joined with the President of the National Education Association (NEA) Dennis Van Roekel to call on US President Obama to advocate at the summit meetings to rebuild the world economy by increasing funding for education, not cutting it.
In their joint letter, the two presidents urged President Obama to exercise his leadership role “to impress upon fellow world leaders that education must not be seen as an expensive drain on their economies, but as a high-return investment, the heart and soul of recovery and new beginnings.”
Both organisations also called for support to build a Global Partnership for Teacher Education and Professional Development in order to ensure the supply of a sufficient number of qualified teachers to achieve quality Education for All by 2015.