American Federation of Teachers (AFT): Everything You Need to Know

The American Federation of Teachers is a nationally organized association that represents the interests of all affiliated classroom teachers. It is made up of professional teachers who stand up for teachers’ needs and interests.

The AFT, which started its journey in 1916, is an affiliate of the AFL-CIO. Today, it represents 1.7 million members in over 3,000 local affiliates all over the country. Five divisions within the AFT symbolize the extensive range of its membership. These include pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; higher education faculty and professional staff; paraprofessionals and other personnel who handle school-related tasks; local, state, and federal government employees; and nurses and other healthcare professionals. Additionally, the AFT represents almost 250,000 retiree members and about 80,000 early childhood educators.

The AFT is governed by its 43-member executive council consisting of elected officers and delegates to the union’s convention held biennially. Several renowned Americans, including Albert Einstein, John Dewey, Frank McCourt – the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and Hubert Humphrey, have been AFT members.

The AFT champions democracy, fairness, economic opportunity, high-quality public education, public services, and healthcare for its students, their families, and the member communities. It’s committed to improving the lives of its members and their families, giving voice to their legitimate professional, social, and economic aspirations, and strengthening the institutions in which they work. AFT’s mission also includes improving its quality of services and bringing together all members to assist and support each other, thus promoting human rights and freedom in its union, the country, and throughout the world.

To become a member of the AFT, eligible individuals can join an AFT local in their worksite, a council of locals or, a statewide affiliate in some cases. The majority of AFT locals are organized around a particular employer (such as a municipality, a school district, or a hospital). AFT membership requests are handled by AFT affiliates and not at the national level, barring associate membership.

Individuals who aren’t eligible to join the union through their workplace, are students, or live in a jurisdiction where no AFT locals or state affiliates exist may be eligible for the AFT’s associate membership. There are two categories of associate memberships, namely basic and advanced. While basic associate membership costs $70 annually, advanced membership costs $132 a year. Though both offer multiple opportunities, benefits, and resources, advanced members will additionally receive occupational liability insurance worth $1 million and up to $10,000 in legal defense protection.

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