AFL-CIO’s Redmond Motivates AFSA Delegates to Action

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Fredrick D. Redmond opened the final day of the American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA) 16th Triennial Convention lauding attendees for their efforts and results. 

“America would be nothing without you, and America would be nothing without public schools,” Redmond said, honoring all of the educators that filled the room. “The fact of the matter is, you are the heroes in this story,” he added. 

“Now is the time to invest in our public schools, so that our children can learn in a safe environment,” Redmond said. “It is not just about the students—educators, school administrators, all of us need resources, too.” 

Quality of education is key, he noted, encouraging school leaders to talk to their students about what a career means to them, whether learning a trade or pursuing higher education. The labor federation plans to work with teachers to highlight the importance of the building trades, beginning in Detroit this fall with high school assemblies outlining apprenticeship opportunities that would lead to a profession without the burden of student debt.

Redmond emphasized the advantage of unions and working to grow the movement, as when unions do well, America does well. Unions are garnering their highest favorability ratings in national polls in more than 40 years, with nearly 70% of those polled saying unions are critical to their ability to receive livable wages, fair benefits, affordable health care, and the ability to retire with dignity and respect. 

Though large numbers of workers want a union, there are institutional obstacles to their having one on the job. Labor laws are broken, making it nearly impossible to organize and collectively bargain. Redmond urged members to help give workers a voice so that students and educators can receive the attention and resources they rightfully deserve. 

Standing strong with our siblings across unions and across professions starts with one-on-one conversations with our members about what is happening to workers in this country, hearing about issues that our members care about, and moving forward to reestablish a connection with them to build trust. He encouraged everyone to start by discussing our democracy, asking the question of who in Washington, D.C., has our back going into November’s elections and beyond. 

“We can be a trusted source of information about the candidates who we all know will deliver for all working people and who care about workers having a real voice on the job,” Redmond said. “We are going to do what educators do best—we are going to educate our members.” 

Once members have the knowledge they need to vote, they need a clear right and path to cast their ballots. State after state has passed or attempted to pass legislation to restrict voting. He urged convention attendees to demand that everyone has the right to vote. 

“Freedom is not free and basic fundamental rights are not guaranteed under the Supreme Court,” Redmond said, touching on the recent Roe v. Wade decision. “We need folks to know that unions are what is going to help us fight. Some of us in this room were the first to have the opportunity to go to college because of this democracy. To lead and to develop minds—those rights came through democracy.” 

Redmond closed by urging school leaders to use our union voice during these challenging times to continue to organize and build capacity in our community. He said we cannot afford to have our school leaders burn out by being underpaid and overworked because they are crucial to the future of our democracy. He asked school leaders to wake up every day and fight for the change we want to see. 

He said that as a part of something bigger than ourselves, we must lead the way for those who come after us. Our children and grandchildren will hold us accountable in the future, and the next generation of workers should be able to say: “Union, yes.” 

“The labor union is for them, and the labor union is for everyone,” he exclaimed as the audience cheered. “Show people that the doors of the labor unit are wide open.” 

Fredrick D. Redmond began his union career in 1973 when he joined the United Steelworkers (USW), serving as local president before moving to various leadership roles at the union’s Pittsburgh headquarters. In August 2021 he was selected as the first African American unionist to serve as the AFL-CIO’s secretary-treasurer. He was unanimously elected to the position for a full term in June 2022. He chairs the AFL-CIO Task Force on Racial Justice and the A. Philip Randolph Institute, and he is president of the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas.