solidarity across unions

Monday, July 11, 2005

American Federation of Teachers Membership on the Rise Union of Professionals Gains Nearly 40,000 New Members

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The American Federation of Teachers, one of the fastest growing unions in the United States, comprising five divisions of professional workers employed in schools, colleges and universities, healthcare and government, continued its record of strong membership growth over the past year. The union experienced growth in every region of the nation and in the wide range of professions it represents, adding 38,788 members to its ranks between the AFT convention last year and this week's QuEST conference.

The AFT has gained 750,695 members since 1985, more than doubling in size during that time. The union's numbers have increased every year for more than 20 years. The union's membership now stands at 1,361,485. The AFT's organizing successes over the past year, in a broad range of professions, included:

  • The addition of nearly 5,400 full- and part-time faculty and graduate employees at Rutgers University;
  • The selection of AFT by 2,062 paraprofessionals and school-related personnel in Douglas County, Colo.;
  • Election victories for public charter school faculties in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania;
  • An election victory for preschool teachers at the Cherry Hill, N.J., Jewish Community Center; AFT also won elections to represent other preschool teachers, including Head Start teachers in Wayne County, Mich., and in Paterson, N.J.;
  • Voluntary recognition by the University of Illinois/Chicago for AFT's graduate employee local, representing 1,261 teaching and research assistants;
  • In New York, 694 adjunct professors employed at Pace University, a private institution, voted to affiliate with the AFT;
  • Only two weeks ago, workers employed as teachers, educational assistants and school clinicians at Natchaug Hospital in Mansfield Center, Conn., voted to join the AFT. These workers provide rehabilitation, mental health and drug intervention services to local school districts;
  • In Washington state, more than 1,000 professors at Central and Eastern Washington universities voted to join the union.

"It takes a lot of hard work and resources to grow the union. These numbers show that workers from a wide spectrum of employment want and need union representation where they work," said AFT president Edward J. McElroy. "We're proud to have a culture of organizing. These numbers are especially impressive when you consider that to maintain our current level of membership, we must sign up 3,000 workers every week because of membership loss due to retirements, resignations and other factors." Much of the union's growth came from signing up members in existing bargaining units. Florida, for example, gained 9,515 members; Texas, 2,761; and New York state added 17,458 new members. In terms of percentage growth, Vermont boosted its ranks by 15 percent and Alabama by 10 percent.

The union gained members in its divisions representing teachers, school-related personnel, higher education and healthcare. The division that represents public employees in local, state and federal government suffered a loss as a result of recently elected Indiana governor Mitch Daniels' unilateral decision to eliminate worker rights and collective bargaining for state workers. The AFT, in conjunction with the United Auto Workers, jointly represented 15,500 Indiana state employees.

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The AFT represents 1.3 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers, paraprofessionals and other school support employees, higher education faculty, nurses and other healthcare workers, and state and local government employees.

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The Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions is a loose-knit coalition of labor unions in the USA and Canada that represents graduate students employed as teachers, researchers, and administrative staff.