May 9, 2023
Educators learn early in our careers that it’s not what is said that counts, it’s what is heard. So I hope you hear the gratitude that Fedrick, Evelyn and I have for every single AFT members and supporter — for what you do, and for who you are.
You make a difference in the lives of others. You are on the frontlines, teaching our kids, healing our communities and standing up for the common good. You deserve our nation’s gratitude 365 days a year.
So it’s fitting to take a moment to say thank you as the rest of the country celebrates Teacher Appreciation Week, National Nurses Week and Public Service Recognition Week all at the same time. I like to joke that it should be called AFT Member Week! And even though this week honors teachers, nurses and public employees, I also want to specifically say thank you to our school staff, higher education and other healthcare members as well.
All week long, we’re celebrating you and the different professions you have pursued, each of which face their own unique challenges. Join us as we honor you and your colleagues through campaigns and actions that bring resources and attention to the issues in public education, healthcare, and public services and public safety.
Our nurses worked on the frontlines of the pandemic, and they continue to face burnout, staffing shortages, and crisis-level mental health effects from the combination of COVID-19 and years of the healthcare system putting profits over people. The AFT has launched our Code Red campaign to secure safe patient limits, stronger collective bargaining protections, loan forgiveness and other crucial protections that improve nurse working conditions and, in turn, improve the quality of care patients receive. This National Nurses Week, you can thank a nurse by advocating for safe staffing. We’re calling on Congress to pass the safe staffing bill.
Our public employees — from library workers to water-quality chemists to staff in our state schools for the deaf — work to support our democracy and ensure our communities keep moving forward. Each day of Public Service Recognition Week we’ll be posting graphics and stories thanking workers in just a few of the 3,000 different job titles in our public employee membership; join us in sharing these graphics and stories, and be sure to check out all of our resources here.
Our nation’s teachers and support professionals are in classrooms and schools every day, helping students navigate the world, figure out who they want to become, and learn the basic skills they need for life. They do it selflessly, and with incredible creativity. And these days, as we just saw on full display at the April 26 House subcommittee hearing, there are many in the Congress who want to demonize us and divide us, rather than help us help children. Thanking teachers means more than mouthing the words; it requires pressing for the conditions and compensation befitting the profession that nurtures and sparks all other professions. So this Teacher Appreciation Week, we’re following up on President Joe Biden’s call to give teachers a raise; we’re asking everyone to write members of Congress and ask them to pass the teacher and school staff respect bills, which would raise teacher pay to at least $60,000 per year.
This week, one of the stars of the TV show “Abbott Elementary” joins me on the latest episode of the AFT’s “Union Talk” podcast to honor our members. Take a listen to my conversation with Emmy-winning actor Sheryl Lee Ralph. Together, we thank teachers and talk about how vital all our work is.
And as an additional show of gratitude this week, we are offering AFT and First Book members the opportunity to choose $25 worth of brand-new books for FREE from the FirstBook Marketplace when you use promo code THANKYOU! This opportunity is available on a first-come, first-served basis while funding lasts, and it is exclusively for AFT members who are also signed up with First Book. If you’re not a First Book member yet, visit www.firstbook.org/AFT to learn more about First Book’s eligibility requirements and sign up for free today. Note that this opportunity is open to all AFT members regardless of which AFT constituency category you’re in — it’s not just for teachers!
So, to every teacher and school support employee who has given their heart and soul this year to help our students: thank you. To every public employee who has made a difference in our communities: thank you. To every nurse and other healthcare worker who has helped our patients with endless grace and professionalism: thank you. And to all our other members: Your work sustains our students, our democracy and our communities too, and I thank you.
Thank you again for your valuable work. Happy Teacher Appreciation Week, Public Service Recognition Week and National Nurses Week.
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RANDI WEINGARTEN is president of the 1.7 million-member American Federation of Teachers, 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. The AFT champions fairness; democracy; economic opportunity; and high-quality public education, healthcare and public services for students, their families and communities. The AFT and its members advance these principles through community engagement, organizing, collective bargaining and political activism, and especially through members’ work.