The American Federation of Teachers

AFT Mission Statement

The American Federation of Teachers is a union of professionals that champions fairness; democracy; economic opportunity; and high-quality public education, healthcare and public services for our students, their families and our communities. We are committed to advancing these principles through community engagement, organizing, collective bargaining and political activism, and especially through the work our members do.

About AFT Higher Education

AFT is the largest higher education union in the country, representing over 130,000 higher education faculty, professional staff and graduate employees. The AFT higher education department mission is to help our affiliates and their members prosper in the face of political, economic and technological forces challenging the most basic assumptions about the union’s role on campus. The political attack on public service in general and public higher education in particular has, in part, resulted in:

  • tight budgets as well as anti-union presidents and boards of trustees;
  • attacks on tenure, shared governance and academic freedom;
  • exploitation of part-time/adjunct and other nontenure track faculty as well as graduate employees; and,
  • increased intervention from state and federal legislators.

The AFT Higher Education Program and Policy Council, which represents the interests of higher education members to the larger organization, has developed a Strategic Plan (PDF) to focus the union’s efforts in addressing the current trends in higher education. In addition, AFT Higher Education’s policy statements on issues such as tenure, shared governance, contingent labor, teacher education and technology offer information and policy guidance, as well as arguments and negotiating strategies to advance the union agenda. AFT Higher Education’s conferences supplement these publications, as does the higher education departments work with other AFT departments on matters that affect higher education and our locals.

About the AFT

The American Federation of Teachers was founded in 1916 to represent the economic, social and professional interests of classroom teachers.  It is an affiliated international union of the AFL-CIO.

The AFT has more than 3,000 local affiliates nationwide, 43 state affiliates, and more than 1.3 million members.

Five divisions within the organization represent the broad spectrum of AFT’s membership: teachers; paraprofessionals and school-related personnel (PSRP); local, state and federal employees; higher education faculty and staff; and nurses and other healthcare professionals. In addition, the union includes more than 170,000 retiree members.

The AFT is governed by its elected officers and delegates to the union’s biennial convention, which sets union policy and elects the union’s officers.  Elected leaders are Randi Weingarten, president, Lorretta Johnson, secretary-treasurer, Francine Lawrence, executive vice president, and a 43-member executive council.  McElroy and LaCour also serve as vice presidents of the AFL-CIO.

In non-convention years, the AFT hosts the Quality Educational Standards in Teaching (QuEST) conference, a professional issues meeting that attracts nearly 3,000 educators from around the country.  AFT’s healthcare, higher education, public employee and PSRP divisions also host yearly professional issues conferences.

The AFT advocates sound, commonsense public education policies, including high academic and conduct standards for students and greater professionalism for teachers and school staff; excellence in public service through cooperative problem-solving and workplace innovations; and high-quality healthcare provided by qualified professionals.

Many well-known Americans have been AFT members, including John Dewey, Albert Einstein, Hubert Humphrey, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Frank McCourt, Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, former Senate Majority Leader and Ambassador to Japan Mike Mansfield, former HHS Secretary Donna Shalala, and former United Nations Under Secretary and Nobel Peace Prize winner Ralph Bunche.

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