The decision means that the two largest national teachers unions have now endorsed Biden. The 3 million-member National Education Association, the largest union in the country, endorsed him a week ago over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has repeatedly said his strongest support comes from teachers.
“In this moment of worldwide crisis, the contrast with Trump is clear," AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a statement. “Our country is navigating the greatest challenge we have battled in generations, and it is essential that we rally around a candidate who can show courage, conviction and compassion in the face of uncertainty.”
The resolution passed by the AFT’s executive council endorsing Biden slammed Trump, saying that Biden “offers a stark contrast to the incompetent, ineffective and narcissistic actions of Trump, who even in these times of crisis continues to only focus on what is good for himself at the expense of the American people.”
The AFT had urged members a month ago to choose between one of three candidates who were then still in the race: Biden, Sanders or Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) until a decision was made for a single endorsement. Warren dropped out in early March after a poor showing on Super Tuesday, in which Biden took a surprising lead in support and delegate count. Sanders has remained in the race, saying he is assessing his campaign even as supporters urge him to keep campaigning.
Weingarten said Sunday that Biden is the right candidate for the times, as the country faces an unprecedented challenge with the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus, which has shut down much of public life in the country.
“Before the COVID-19 epidemic, the 2020 election was about the soul of our country,” Weingarten said in a statement. "Now it’s about our soul, our safety, our health, our security and our economic well-being. Joe Biden is the experienced and empathic leader our country needs right now.
“His character was forged getting up and going to work every day and trying to make life better for his family, facing the ups and downs so many of us face; it was tested by unspeakable loss and grief in life; and it was nurtured through public service, a love of people and the belief in the dignity of every human," she said, referring to Biden’s loss many years ago of his wife and daughter, and, in 2015, of his eldest son.
The union said that the endorsement comes after more than 300,000 members nationwide had participated in a year-long endorsement process, which included candidate events, town hall events, polls, conferences and other activities.
The decision was certain to disappoint some of its Sanders-supporting members. Sanders had offered an extensive education plan to boost public schools and has said he was proud that his strongest support comes from teachers. He had won the endorsements of the United Teachers of Los Angeles and the Clark County Education Association, the largest teachers union in Nevada.
But in the end, the two national teachers unions ended up endorsing Biden, who is seen by their leadership as being best able to defeat Trump.
Here is the text of the AFT resolution passed by leadership in support of Biden:
WHEREAS, the American Federation of Teachers has spent more than a year engaging members and affiliates in the most intensive, inclusive, transparent and engaging presidential endorsement process in our history and has seen unprecedented engagement by members; andWHEREAS, the AFT’s endorsement decision in the presidential primary has been guided by three essential criteria: a candidate who shares our values, a candidate who has the support of our members, and a candidate who can defeat President Trump. And in the more than 300,000 conversations we have had, our members believed when the time came, we would unify as a national union behind one candidate; andWHEREAS, in February, the AFT’s executive council concluded that three candidates shared our values and had a path to winning the nomination—Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren—and encouraged our members to actively support any or all of them; andWHEREAS, since that point, our members, like Democrats across the nation, have coalesced around Biden, who now has clear majority support of our members across all constituencies; andWHEREAS, with nearly 60 percent of the delegates allocated, Biden has a sizable lead and has proven he has the ability to attract voters and build a coalition to win not just the primary but also the general election; andWHEREAS, this election has taken on an increasing urgency since the actual voting has begun. The world, including the United States, is facing a global pandemic threatening the health, well-being and economic security of our members, our communities and our nation. The dire need for personal protective equipment for our essential personnel is a case in point, which is why now more than ever we need to unite behind a strong, effective, empathic leader who can help families and lead a fractured nation. A leader who offers a stark contrast to the incompetent, ineffective and narcissistic actions of Trump, who even in these times of crisis continues to only focus on what is good for himself at the expense of the American people; andWHEREAS, the economic harm caused by COVID-19 will be particularly devastating to working families. Even before the pandemic hit, nearly 40 percent of Americans said they couldn’t cover a $400 emergency expense. Just as Franklin D. Roosevelt after Herbert Hoover and the Great Depression and Barack Obama and Biden after George W. Bush and the Great Recession, this moment calls for a Democratic president who has the competence and compassion to not just bring us out of the depths of economic ruin but also rewrite the rules so working families thrive and heal our nation:RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers endorses Joe Biden to be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States as the candidate who shares our values, has the support of our members and has the path to the nomination and to the presidency. Biden has proven he is best able to bring the necessary coalition of Americans together to defeat Trump, handle this pandemic and its aftermath, and create a better life and future for all Americans; andRESOLVED, that AFT members have a long history with Biden and know him as someone whose life experiences crafted a resilient, competent, compassionate and honest leader with an unbending optimism and commitment to working people. Biden has spent his entire career championing the values of strong public schools and higher education; healthcare and college as rights not privileges; and labor and civil rights. He believes in the dignity of every person and the importance of the labor movement. He was a trusted vice president, at home and abroad, and he, with President Obama, helped America get through a terrible recession. He is the leader we need in this moment; andRESOLVED, that Biden’s proposals demonstrate his deep belief in the promise and purpose of public education, higher education and the labor movement. He understands healthcare is a right, not a privilege, and was instrumental in the passage of the Affordable Care Act. He championed the Violence Against Women Act and led the administration’s fight for marriage equality. Biden’s healthcare plans will make healthcare more affordable by offering a public option for families and reigning in drug companies to make medicine affordable. He will fight to make it easier for workers who choose to unionize to do so and has adopted plans to reform bankruptcy laws for struggling families. He will strengthen and invest in public schools, including by tripling funding for Title I, fully funding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, expanding community schools, investing in school infrastructure and doubling the number of psychologists, guidance counselors, nurses, social workers and other health professionals in our schools; limit testing; support educators; and invest in higher education and make college affordable, including by establishing a “Title I for postsecondary education,” investing in public colleges and universities and historically black colleges and universities, strengthening Public Service Loan Forgiveness and income-based repayment, and making public colleges and universities free for most families. These plans stand in stark contrast to the Betsy DeVos agenda to defund and destroy public education. Biden’s education plans are informed by his wife, Jill, who has been a teacher her entire career, even while Biden served as vice president; andRESOLVED, that the AFT will use our endorsement, our appointment to the platform committee, and our relationship with the Biden campaign to strengthen both the national Democratic platform and the policy positions of the eventual Democratic nominee in the way AFT members envision; andRESOLVED, that the AFT commits to continuing our unprecedented level of engagement to ensure nobody is on the sidelines in the November elections and that we do everything in our power to help Biden win the democratic nomination and then elect him president.(2020)Please note that a newer resolution, or portion of a resolution, may have superseded an earlier resolution on the same subject.