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Episode 12: The Power of Something Bigger

National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers presidents Becky Pringle and Randi Weingarten join us to talk about the tangible benefits of union membership like public service loan forgiveness and the dynamic power that comes when there is alignment between the national, state, and local unions and rank-and-file members.

Guests

  • Becky Pringle is president of the National Education Association (NEA), the nation’s largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA’s 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States. Learn more about Becky: https://www.nea.org/about-nea/leaders/president
  • Randi Weingarten is president of the 1.7 million-member American Federation of Teachers (AFT), AFL-CIO, which represents teachers; paraprofessionals and school-related personnel; higher education faculty and staff; nurses and other healthcare professionals; local, state and federal government employees; and early childhood educators. Learn more about Randi:
    https://www.aft.org/about/leadership/randi-weingarten

Transcript

Andrew Spar, President of FEA: Hi, this is FEA President Andrew Spar. To stay on top of all the latest news and issues impacting our public schools be sure to follow FEA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. For more information on this podcast, visit FEAweb.org/podcast. 

Sharon Nesvig, Announcer: You’re listening to Educating from the Heart. Thank you for joining our lively conversations with teachers, support professionals, parents and students, as they share issues that matter most in our public schools. Here are your hosts, Tina Dunbar and Luke Flynt. 

Tina Dunbar, Host: Welcome to another episode of Educating from the Heart. I’m Tina with Luke. You know, we’ve been hearing a lot of educators share concerns over personnel shortages in their schools, and the impact it’s having on the work they do. Now some are even expressing worries over not having enough school supplies to make it to the end of the school year due to rising prices, disruptions in the supply chain and worker shortages in every area of our economy. You know, Luke, people are voluntarily walking away from their jobs or standing up for safety and fighting for better worker rights. We’re experiencing an explosion of labor activism in Florida and throughout the nation. 

Luke Flynt, Host: You know, Tina, I see it too, from the workers at John Deere to Kellogg’s, those employed in healthcare to Hollywood. This fall has seen one of the largest increases of organized labor activity in a century. Tina, did you know that during the fall of 2021, up to 100,000 working people have either been on strike or voted to authorize a strike. 

Tina: Wow. That’s a lot. I knew about the strikes, but so many standing up.  

Luke:  This wave of taking back power and asserting worker rights has been wonderful to watch. I’m reminded of one of my favorite songs. Now, I’m not going to sing. Everybody would stop listening if I did. But “Solidarity Forever” has been sung for more than a century.  

Tina: Hey, I’ve got it here. I’m going to play it.   

Utah Phillips singing “Solidarity Forever”: When the union’s inspiration through the workers’ blood shall run/There can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sunYet what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one/But the union makes us strong 

Tina: Oh, I love that song. But in our case, we should say “unions” plural with an ‘S.’  Educators in Florida are very fortunate to be part of what’s known as a merged state. That means union members affiliated with the FEA are also members of both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. 

Now, recently we sat down with the presidents of both unions, Becky Pringle, from the NEA and Randi Weingarten from the AFT. The conversation you’re about to hear starts with a very specific example of why workers need strong organizations to advocate for them. You’ll hear how unions work together to breathe new life into the public service loan forgiveness program and make it a reality all educators can depend upon. You’ll also hear about the relationships between the national unions, our state union, local affiliate unions, and the advocacy of individual members. You know, Luke, when it’s all aligned, we wield a hell of a lot of power.  

Luke:  Yes we do. Regular listeners of Educating from the Heart may notice this episode is a little longer than normal, but the content was just so good we did not want to leave it on the cutting room floor. After all it’s not often we get to interview two of the most powerful women in public education. Let’s take a listen.  

Very challenging times right now. So, it’s always important to celebrate our wins, but it’s especially important right now. And we just had a really big win for so many of our members. And I’m talking about public service loan forgiveness. The win was so recent, people listening right now might not even know what I’m talking about. So, if you could just briefly explain what the victory was and the role that each of our national affiliates had in bringing that victory home for our members.  

 Becky Pringle, President of NEA: So, Congress made a promise, right, Randy? We were three years old when they made the promise. [Laughter] So they made a promise that people working in public service, if they worked in public service for 10 years, then their loans, they had taken out to go to college, to study, to be that professional would be forgiven. And we worked hard for that, right? And it was exciting time, and so instrumental, really seriously was so instrumental in attracting, students into the profession for sure.  

Especially students of color because debt disproportionately impacts them. Because so often they are first generation, so they have to take out really massive loans. And so the idea of loan forgiveness, if they, they taught for 10 years was huge. Right? Um, yeah, that didn’t happen. That didn’t happen. And can I just say, um, Betsy DeVos, not only did it not happen, but honestly, it was like a deliberate effort. It was a concentrated, deliberate effort. It fit within her scheme to, you know, diminish and destroy public education. So it all fit together. But every single possible, ridiculous, she couldn’t even dream of the roadblocks. There are people who have paid on their loans and working. 

We’re getting credit. Oh, you got the wrong loan. I want to get the wrong, provider what? So, we have been fighting this battle for years, and it is like exhibit A: elections matter, not only did we put this on as one of our priorities with then candidate Biden and all the candidates, honestly. 

But after President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris won the election, we didn’t stop. We kept pushing, we push them to Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, after he got confirmed and said this is a priority of ours. And we were together, lockstep on that. And he agreed last week enough is enough. And we’re going to move forward these reforms and we’re to get that debt, forgiveness that we were promised. 

And it was going to start right now. I mean, immediately, immediately, what is it like $22,000 immediately would be forgiven, and then another $20,000, and to the tune of like $80,000. I mean, that’s life-changing. 

And we have a long way to go, but immediate relief and so many more in the pipeline up to, you know, billions of dollars of loan forgiveness that will make a huge difference in the lives of so many of our members.  

 Randi Weingarten, President of AFT: And then on top of that, the things that, you know, just you take what Becky just said about [Betsy] DeVos. So in 2019, we take this lawsuit because by 2017, you know, it’s 10 years, that’s when the first student debt, that is one of the first should be forgiven. And then you start hearing from people, nothing like “denied, denied.” Like when 98 and 99% is denied, you know, something’s wrong. So, then Congress drives this fix of temporary public service loan forgiveness also denied. 

So, you know something is wrong in that department. So, so let’s be fair. I don’t think the Obama administration, Arnie Duncan, did a good job in making clear what people had to do and things like that. Because I do think that Joe Biden and Miguel Cardona… it’s not just that the election is better. It’s the election of someone who has pulled public education. So, let’s just be clear that it’s not as if you just take a magic wand and say, “okay, make this go away.” Because there were a bunch of things that when they moved all the student loans under the umbrella of the Ed Department, they could have made this easier to do. 

But what happened, and this is where Betsy DeVos is the real culprit, what happened is that as Secretary of Education, she sided with the servicers much more than she sided with the borrowers. So, a servicer like NAVI, the first entity we sued, they could basically say, “okay, Becky, you were supposed to pay $200 and 22 cents this month, and you paid $200 and 21 cents. That payment doesn’t count.”  Or somebody was in a direct loan or a non direct loan, or went with the servicer that was not in public service loan, forgiveness. Those payments don’t count.  

So, what we did was we said, you can fix a lot of this stuff administratively, right. We don’t have to go back to Congress. You, Betsy DeVos have a lot of power as the Secretary of Education, that’s why you wanted the damn job. So she, you know, she wanted to destroy things. She wanted the power, but on this stuff, she was like, “Nope, nope. I can’t do anything.” So, I have to say, I did love having a lawsuit that said “Weingarten versus DeVos.” 

But the first thing they did was they moved to dismiss it. “Oh no, we don’t have the power.” And then they’ll go to Congress and say, “oh, you know, you should do X and Y and Z.” And Congress will say, well, “why don’t you change X and Y and Z?” And they’ll say, “oh, well look at it.”  

So, they didn’t want to change anything. They wanted to make this hard. And so these two things nested together, essentially, this is what it means: that everyone who’s had and been denied, like got that big denial, um, effective from November 2020 and before, so, everybody who was denied during the Trump era [is] automatically reviewed, automatically reviewed. 

Everyone else using these new rules will have to ask for the review, but between NEA and AFT, we have this app called Summer, which helps people navigate through it. Everyone is going to have new rules through October 2022, but the lawsuit allows everyone to get a new review, to make sure anyone who was denied gets a new review under the new rules. And that is going to be life-changing. And we had three plaintiffs with us yesterday when we announced. $400,000, in those eight people, main plaintiffs that were discharged immediately.  

And, and the last thing I’ll say is, look, we got a lot of calls yesterday about this, but you take an AFT NEA member like Bonnie Wila-Sargraves, who is a nationally board-certified teacher at Atlantic High School in Port Orange. She’s taught for 30 years. Originally took out a $10,000 loan. She’s allowing me to say this, $10,000 bachelor’s degree, $28,000 for her master’s. Even after paying all these loans, because of who the servicer was, she now owes $62,000 now. And so what’s happened is that if you are in that maze, that Kafkaesque maze, where do you go?  

And nowwe think it’s all going to be forgiven. We were talking to her today. Think about 60 years old, wanted to teach school, teacher in Florida. That’s what’s so life-changing about the advocacy. We both did NEA AFT, putting a face on it, but, and also all those other student loan groups, because you got to do this with community, but as Becky just said, the difference between a Secretary of Education who cares and is willing to go through and get rid of that red tape, a president who cares versus…. Bush put this together! That’s, life-changing absolutely in terms of our membership.  

Becky: And something that Randi said is a really real important for our members to understand, they need to contact us immediately. It’s a short, it’s a short, relatively short window until 2022. So that’s really, really important. And I want to emphasize something that Randy said, and that we both have done. Not every educator is a teacher and a lawyer. So, some of us, need to have lawyers that have time to do this.  What Randi just described, who has time to do that? Especially right now. Are you kidding me? And so we have worked very closely with our members and the office of general counsel, oh my goodness, working around the clock. These are heartbreaking stories. Yes, they’re heartbreaking. 

And so we actually, even before Secretary Cardona made the announcement, we had worked with member after member, after member, and were able to actually get them, their debt, reduced to the tune of over $1.5 million. And that’s just with our efforts. And one of the things that I shared, and I know that you did too Randi, with secretary Corona is that we’ve been working on this for a long time, so we actually can tell you to do in a loving way. But we’ve been doing it. We’ve been walking our members through it for years. And so, we already have stood up, both of us have stood up, apps, really easy apps to help our members through for us nea.org/sabi, S a B I.  

Randi: And for us it’s the AFT website, it’s going to be slashed all over, but the real thing is to know  “S U M M E R” like the season we all love  “summer.” And it is the navigator that will help navigate through this whole process. And thousands of people have gone through it already, and we’re working it to make sure that it is aligned to all these new changes.  

Tina: And we will make sure that we have this information also posted on our website on the show notes page. So that if people listen to podcasts as they’re driving now, [you can find these links on our webpage]. So we’ll make sure that it’s available that way. You know, it really is important to have a strong organization behind you, no matter what you do and what this victory is really a good example of this importance of having a strong organization, like a union behind you.  

Randi: But let’s, let’s also, I want to shout out something else that NEA and AFT did together and the Obama administration, which is the whole focus on this using standardized tests as the basis of teacher evaluation. And Becky was completely involved. We did [so many] meetings with the Congress, frankly, the president turned around on this, and that ESEA were formed. What happened was we got the secretary of education out of the business of being the human resource officer of every school district. And basically prohibited the secretary of education from actually requiring test scores as a basis of teacher evaluation. Because we knew that that was the way in which they were having this fixation on test scores, to be the basis of everything. Reducing teachers to an algorithm, reducing kids to a test score. 

And now after what just happened with Facebook, everybody understands how dangerous these algorithms can be. And so this is not, you know, this was a really important victory, and people are going to see it directly. But, you know, NEA and AFT have been working hard over years, you know, and to really make sure that our members’ conditions, like we hear what our educators are saying in Florida, we hear the pain, we, and, and there’s some things you can do on a national level, and some things you gotta do on a state level. And in some ways the FEA merger of NEA and AFT it put together a strong state organization that could take on these issues on a state level.  

Becky: The value of a union. Randi just used one of many examples we could use, in fighting for something that we know our students deserve our, our educators, both our our members, as well as our potential members and future members, and the power of our unions. 

We see evidence of that, not only in the victories that we’ve won, but we also see it in the rise in the attacks. Because they’re afraid of us. And they are trying to diminish our power, our reputation, and trying to tear… separate us from our members. Right. As though, “Ooh, that’s a union and oh, you, you, you got teachers, you support staff.” 

You know that didn’t work with Bob Dole did it, and it’s not going to work now. And it’s important for us, all of us leaders throughout the country, certainly here in Florida with all of the attacks that, that educators and students and parents and communities are under here, and that they understand the value of collective action, of people coming together with that one purpose, with that north star mission. Fighting for what we know is right for our students in schools. And so, again, elections matter, electing someone who believes in worker rights, who believes in working families who believes in and says the word “union.”  

I don’t even remember, honestly, Randi, I don’t even remember when that happened. When a president centered so much of his policy in that. And so to have that bully pulpit to say, “yeah, not only did unions build this country, not only did they make that difference to help, in particular women, rise from poverty into the middle class, and certainly in a profession that is predominantly women that’s important. Same thing with people of color. And so it is so critical for us, and we are, Randi and I.  

I actually got that question, “How, how often do you talk to Randi?” Well, it depends on the day because yesterday… we were on a call the other day, and we were talking about how we are leaning into taking advantage of this moment. You know, because we’ve all we’ve been talking for decades about, you know, unions waning and membership and by extension power and influence and all of that. 

But this is a moment. I was meeting with the FEA leaders today. And one of them was saying to me, they were talking about all the stress and all of the uncertainty and exhaustion and all of those things that are very real. And then at the end Eric said, “but Becky, we recruited 55 members in just a couple of weeks.” And I said, “well, how did you do that?” [And he said,] “They saw the value and the power of the union standing up for their right to be safe, for their right to access the money coming from the federal government, their rights as professionals.” All of those, they saw that value, and so their membership was increasing. And so, they are seeing that value ,and we will continue with that up and talk about our victories, which come with us being targeted. It comes with the territory.  

Tina: And we tell members all the time that that’s the reason why this is happening. And that’s the reason why that should empower them as well, and that’s what you’re saying it’s.  

Randi:  It is a very troubled and disconcerting time, yes. In America, but kind of, I lean into optimism like Becky does because of a couple of things. Number one: you see a country that’s very disagreeable and grouchy about a lot of things. It’s very strongly supportive of unions. So, when you see that in the Gallup poll, for example, that the general population got to 68% in support [of unions] and young people, 77%, and Republicans, 47%. I don’t normally remember all these statistics, but this one I remember. When you see that you know that this crosses ideological lines, it crosses racial lines, it crosses gender lines. 

That’s a really good thing because it is one of the only movements that is  heterogeneous in so many different ways as a membership organization, there’s lots of places now in America that are starting to be very much people in their tribes and not talking to the other tribe. It’s very tribal, and it’s very dangerous. So, the fact that this crosses in so many different ways is really, really important.  

And the second thing is that workers are getting… like this week, a hundred thousand people are either on strike or will be on strike. Kellogg workers, and I was with some of them today in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The IATSE workers who are basically behind the stage doing the cameraman and camera people, et cetera, and the John Deere workers. And so what you’re seeing is that people will say, “I’m going to withhold my labor.” These are all private sector, right, just like this teacher strikes in 2018, “I’m going to withhold by labor because I want to make sure that it’s not just, I know I have some leverage right now in the post COVID world with the supply chain, with the money, you’ve all gotten to have a decent wage right now, the lack of, you know, the shortages.” 

But you hear these workers say, “I want to make sure that these manufacturing jobs are available for the next generation.”  And think about what we say when we say we’re talking about safety of schools. Yes, of course we’re talking about for our members, but it’s also for the communities we serve. 

All the issues around masking of kids—most of our members have gotten vaccinated, so masking of kids is making sure that each of the kids are safe and making sure when we have layered mitigation is to make sure everybody’s safe. And so what’s happened is that… and this is what I also [want to say] because, you know, he’s had a couple of bad weeks, Joe Biden, but I want to kind of lift him up. He sees labor as an economic tool to lift up a middle class again. That’s why teachers are in labor so that their voices can be heard together with collective action: the only way we really have any power. But it’s also so that it’s not just the gazillionaires that have made it in America, that people who work for a living can actually have a middle-class life. 

And so that’s what I appreciate about Biden in terms of what he says about labor is he sees it as the economic tool. He sees that the more people that are in a union, the better it’s going to lift everybody up. And so it will also help find common ground because people who may start differently talk to each other. Last story I’ll say with this is when I’m up in Lancaster, it’s a pretty Republican area. Talking to the guys and the women on the strike line, and a couple of the people from the bakery workers tell me about the area. And we’re talking for a while, we’re talking with the guys, the women, talking to the people from the bakery union, and what they said to me after we’re talking for a while is it’s only been Democrats or unionists and our community that’s come out. None of these people, like Donald Trump didn’t come out to support us. Their Republican congressmen, who many of them on that line voted for, didn’t come out and support us. And it’s become now a lesson of whose side are you on. 

But what that says to me, about all of us is that you can’t kind of contract out the activism. Like you think about the Rally and Tally, and what that did for the Republicans in the legislature. They saw it, they saw people there, and we’ve got to make sure that that activism, that the muscle is there to have a union, but don’t contract it out to the president of the NEA, the president of the AFT, or the president of FEA. We’ve got to have local activism so that people talk to each other and see each other and are in community and make unionism a very organic thing that people feel agency around.  

Tina: It’s funny because I always say this is really about relationships. A union is about relationships. That’s how people work together, come together, find the common ground by talking and sharing and compromising, and we can do it, there’s no doubt about that. Let me ask you one other question. We have shortages across the board everywhere. What can we do to help mitigate this problem? 

Becky:  So, the first thing we have to do is listen. You know, it’s organizing 101, right? We have to listen. Certainly at the national level, we can’t come in and say, “oh, we have the answer.” We never know. We need to listen. You know, I love saying we’re a 3 million member organization. I get a lot of fun out of that. But actually leveraging that power at every level? 

And so one of the things that I’ve been talking about this year is what I’ve called dynamic alignment. So dynamically aligning national, state, and local, and member in a way that we leverage that expertise and those resources to actually make a difference in the lives of our members and in the lives of our citizens. 

And so when we think about the challenges their facing, whether it’s that shortage of bus drivers, or we’re seeing teachers covering classes. One of the local leaders today was they were talking about how they actually were able to negotiate an additional hour. So that if they were taken, if they had to give up their prep time, that they were being paid for it. So that’s good, but they shouldn’t have to do, and they are exhausted. And we see it. Some of them were saying that, you know, “it’s the end of October and it feels like the end of April.” So the shortage right now is alarming and the impact is great. 

One of the local presidents said that within the last two weeks, I think she said two weeks, she had four members in elementary school and four in high school who went into the principal’s office and put their letters of resignation in that day. So that’s not unique. That’s happening all over this country. 

So, we have that happening. So we have the shortage, and we already had that before the pandemic hit, we were already sounding that alarm, that we were seeing the enrollment declining in our schools of education. So we knew what was gonna happen, and now we’re seeing our experienced teachers leaving, either just leaving or retiring early. And, I don’t even know whether I want to say “more troubling” or “as troubling,” our younger teachers, our new teachers who are one through five years, are leaving even at a higher rate than they were before. So, we’re in the process of listening.  

I started in July what I’ve called my Joy, Justice and Excellence Tour, to go around the country and listen, as I asked the same question of members, in addition to what I just said, you know, they said, “you know, we have to, we have to attack this at the root level, and we have to talk about professional respect and authority. And we have to talk about professional compensation.”  

And I’m not only talking about teachers, I’m talking about our support staff at every level. And we still have support staff who aren’t making a living wage, not that that’s enough because it’s not. And we saw with the Red for Ed movement a couple of years ago, we have teachers who are living in their cars. So, we know those are very basic things that we have to get done to actually not only attract, but recruit. 

It’s not about us coming in and saving. It is about our local folks coming together and organizing, and us supporting that, creating the space and providing the resources and connecting them with each other because they have some brilliant ideas and helping to see that in a way that we scope and scale it across the state and across the country.   

Randi: Ditto to everything that Becky just said. We also just had an executive council meeting this week. And I had a lot of conversation about this. When they say something that’s kind of, sort of raw, our members are not stupid, and neither are people who want to go into public service. So when you have… take the bus drivers shortage. When you have all these people who got laid off at the beginning or in the middle of COVID, you know, all those bus drivers, paraprofessionals that got laid off? [Then months later the schools say] “oh, we’re starting school again, we need you.”  A lot of the people are like, “I’m not coming back, but oh, so are you gonna actually,”  it’s like a buyer’s market right now for bus drivers. “Oh, so the next time you don’t need me, you’re going to fire me again and you’re going to make me go through this crazy unemployment situation? And what about my job security?” 

Where the pockets of real shortage [are] are the places where frankly, you know, state localities and, and frankly, private sector, all across country, but state localities in particular, basically fire people, and it took us a while to get the local and state monies, you know, we didn’t get one in the first Cares Act. 

The private sector got, which is if you keep people on, right, you’re not gonna, you’ll get an enhanced unemployment. We didn’t get that for the public sector because McConnell was like let the public sector will bankrupt. So, I just want to do a little bit of that connection reality.  

And the second piece is people know the jobs where they have that kind of professional respect and where they can feed a family, and where they can’t. And the fact that people want to make a difference in the lives of others only goes so far. You have to have that deep professional respect. You have to have some autonomy. We gave all these teachers so much autonomy when we were locking down, when people didn’t know what to do. And all of a sudden we’re back in school, and “oh, you have no autonomy.”  And it’s the hardest time because kids are coming in with all sorts of different needs, so this more than any other time, it’s really hard. So, we’re gonna have kind of an organized way to listen, cause we want to make it an organizing activity. 

So, we’re having, for both nurses; we represent over 200,000 nurses and private hospitals all throughout the country, and where you think teachers are stressed, nurses [are certainly stressed], and so what we’re thinking about doing is between now to the convention, having taskforce doing some of these things, because as you can see from both of our reactions, we have listened to where our members are and our leaders are, but to actually do a very big task force on the recruitment/retention of nurses, the recruitment/retention of teachers and support personnel. 

And so we use a big task force. Listening in an organized way across the country, make it an organizing campaign as we’re getting to a set of recommendations that we’ll bring to the convention. So, do things now, but also really make this, the campaign for professionalism, both in terms of salary, in terms of respect, but through the collective wisdom and action and voices of our members. So that’s kind of how we’re thinking about it. Sorry, no quick fix. But a way of really etching it, so that we don’t go through this again, right.  

So this is a moment when, FEA 20 years plus one has gone through so many existential threats, threat, after threat, and rises, more strength, more confidence, more, both compassion and muscularity, and it shows the ethos that we both have talked about. That together you can accomplish what’s impossible to do alone. Community is what public education is. 

We are foundational to community. We’re foundational to justice. We’re foundational to opportunity, but without having a union that has your back, that is part and parcel of trying to be solution-driven, forward-looking with the soul of justice and opportunity. That’s the way our country can thrive with that economic and education opportunity, but it’s not going to happen if we don’t work together and try to bend that arc towards that kind of opportunity and justice. And so for me, this 20th year is a time to reflect, particularly in the life of not only FEA and the ups and downs and ins and outs, the Bushes to the DeSantises, but also the sense of what FEA has accomplished, and that in this very, very tough time gives me a lot of hope and gives a pathway to progress through the work we do together. 

Becky:  Can I just tell you, I have never been prouder to be an educator as I have been over this last year and a half. As I have listened to members either in-person or through Aoom, or it doesn’t matter either, the sheer dedication and commitment, the resilience, the dogged determination, what they have done, when on a moment’s notice, they were thrown into a virtual environment, and they connected with each other, and they dug deep and they found the creative spirit, and they were reminded why they decided to go into the profession they’re in, and stood up for our kids and for each other in such powerful and profound ways, just filled me with such, fills me with such a sense of pride.  

They inspire me every single day, and as I looked specifically at Florida and, you know, with the light shining from national news on the Florida and all, that’s happening here. I just want to focus on how I will, and I have, and I told the leaders today, I actually use you as an example of what’s possible, in an environment like this, what’s possible. And you have no idea the impact you’re making on members, on educators across this country because of what you are doing in this moment, with all that you are facing, you are not giving up. You are not giving in. You are not being, you know, with all the threats. It doesn’t matter. You’re standing in your power. And you are not backing down, certainly in a state that’s merged that has the opportunity to have both national unions’ support, it’s an opportunity for others to learn how that kind of collaboration can really make a difference, in the lives of our kids and of our members. 

Tina: And it has mattered a great deal. I’m going to thank both of you for coming in, taking the time to talk with us. 

Luke:  I don’t know about you, Tina, but I am inspired by these women and so glad that they are leading the fight at the national level for students, educators, communities, and public education. 

Tina: Absolutely. And President Weingarten mentioned a Gallup poll performed in September of 2021. Now you would expect democratic approval of unions to hit a 20 year high, but we’re seeing this across the board. Republican approval, 47% and independents as 66%. Even young people, 77%. Each group’s approval rating is at least 20 points higher than in any previous poll.  

Luke: No, that is amazing. And the bottom line remains that approval of labor unions has been increasing in recent years. Needless to say, there is nothing more important than engaging with your local union. It is the way to build people power. Working people, regardless of where they are employed, want, and really need, to have input on their jobs. The same for educators who want to ensure all of Florida’s students receive the quality education they deserve.  Working together we can do this because our unions make us strong. Until we meet again,  

Tina: Keep Educating from the Heart.  

Aurora Gonzalez:If you enjoy our podcast, ask your friends and colleagues to subscribe on our website@feaweb.org/EducatingFromTheHeart Send your comments and feedback to heart@floridaea.org. Again, that’s heart, H E A R T at Florida EA dot O R G. Or you can leave a voicemail at 8 5 0 2 0 1 3 3 8 4. 

Sharon Nesvig: Educating from the Heart is a production of the Florida Education Association. FEA is the statewide educators’ union with more than 150,000 members, including teachers, education staff professionals, higher education faculty, graduate assistants, students preparing to become teachers and retired educators 

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