‘AFT Votes’ bus tour rolls into Florida this week

Union leaders push to get out the vote for public education and social justice

TALLAHASSEE — The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) brings its get-out-the-vote efforts to Florida this week. The “AFT Votes” bus tour will visit Gainesville, Tampa, Kissimmee, Sanford, Miramar and Miami for events focused on motivating participation in this historic election and on calling attention to issues affecting our students, educators and public schools, with an emphasis on social justice.

AFT leaders will speak at several events. AFT President Randi Weingarten is joined on the tour by Secretary-Treasurer Fedrick Ingram and Executive Vice President Evelyn DeJesus. Secretary-Treasurer Ingram is well known to many in Florida, as he hails from Miami and served as president of the Florida Education Association (FEA) prior to his election to AFT leadership on Sept. 1.

FEA, United Faculty of Florida (UFF) and local union leaders and members, public education supporters and community activists also will participate in events including rallies, a community conversation and “Souls to the Polls.”

The multistate bus tour launched Sept. 30 in Los Angeles. AFT President Weingarten said at that time: “We’ll be talking to our colleagues, our friends and families, and others in our communities about the stakes in this election and about the choices. And we will be urging people to use their voice and make a difference by voting … because every American’s well-being and future, as well as our democracy, depend on the outcome of this election.”

Covid-19 safety protocols are being maintained throughout the AFT tour.

Here is an overview of the AFT Votes tour schedule in Florida:

Thursday, Oct. 29, Gainesville: AFT and FEA leaders will join with United Faculty of Florida-University of Florida (UFF-UF) and the university’s Graduate Assistants United (UF-GAU) for an early voting rally. Union leaders will address the need to avoid cuts to higher education programs in the middle of a pandemic, and to avoid fully reopening physical campuses until they are safe for students and staff. Dr. Kayser Enneking, an assistant dean at the UF College of Medicine and a candidate for Florida House District 21, also will speak. The rally starts at 4:30 p.m. EDT at First United Methodist Church, 419 NE 1st St., Gainesville.

Friday, Oct. 30, Tampa: The tour rolls into the city for an early voting rally beginning at 9:30 a.m. EDT at the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association (HCTA) office, 3102 N. Habana Ave., Tampa. Local candidates, officials and community partners will participate along with union leaders and members.

Friday, Oct. 30, Kissimmee: The “Get Out the Vote Osceola” rally will focus on both engaging the community and on dignity for low-wage workers. Speakers are to include AFT leaders; Lare Allen, president of the Osceola County Education Association (OCEA); Johanna Lopez of Voces Unidas; Felicia Smith, vice president of OCEA Education Staff Professionals; Deloris McMillon of the Osceola NAACP; and Kathleen Orepeza of Fund Education Now. The event begins at 1 p.m. EDT at Kissimmee Lakefront Park, 201 Lakeview Drive, Kissimmee.

Friday, Oct. 30, Sanford: A Community Conversation and Trunk or Treat combine the themes of holiday celebration and voting for public education. Speakers will include AFT leaders; Chonta Henderson, president of the Seminole County School Bus Drivers Association; Pasha Baker, candidate for Florida House District 28, and U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, who is running for re-election; a representative of the Seminole NAACP; and Dan Smith, president of the Seminole Education Association (SEA). Events begin at 4 p.m. EDT at Fort Mellon Park, 600 E. 1st St., Sanford.

Saturday, Oct. 31, Miramar: AFT and FEA leaders will join with the Broward Teachers Union (BTU) for a Drive-In Rally near a polling location. The event, which will feature local candidates and officials, begins at 10:30 a.m. EDT at Miramar Citiplace, 2300 Civic Center Place, Miramar.

Sunday, Nov. 1, Miami: The AFT Votes tour makes its final Florida stop for a “Souls to the Polls” assembly and march beginning at 12:30 p.m. ET at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, 6161 NW 22nd Ave.

Here is the schedule of planned events in Miami:

  • 12:30 p.m. — Assembly at African Heritage Cultural Arts Center
  • 1 p.m. — March begins to Joseph Caleb Center, 5400 NW 22nd
  • 2 p.m. — Rally with Joy Jackson as mistress of ceremony 
  • 2:10 p.m. — Chairwoman Audrey M. Edmondson  
  • 2:15 p.m. — Joseph Thomas, youth speaker 
  • 2:20 p.m. — Vickie Hall, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Florida 
  • 2:25 p.m. — Andre Washington, A. Philip Randolph Institute, National Board  
  • 2:30 p.m. — Ruban Roberts, president of the Miami-Dade NAACP 
  • 2:35 p.m. — Everett Kelley, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees  
  • Musical intermission
  • 2:50 p.m. — Karla Hernandez-Mats, president of United Teachers of Dade (UTD)     
  • 2:55 p.m. — AFT Secretary-Treasurer Ingram
  • 3 p.m. — AFT President Weingarten
  • 3:10 p.m. — Desmond Meade, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition   
  • 3:20 p.m. — Benediction moderator Carl Johnson, 93rd Street Community Baptist Church

CONTACT: Joni Branch, joni.branch@floridaea.org

The Florida Education Association is the state’s largest association of professional employees, with 150,000 members. FEA represents PreK-12 teachers, higher education faculty and graduate students, educational staff professionals, students at our colleges and universities preparing to become teachers and retired education employees.

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