July 18, 2016

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Clinton grateful for AFT support at convention

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With a promise to eliminate public college tuition for working families and a plan to help debt-saddled students refinance college loans, Hillary Clinton made a big impact on the thousands of delegates at AFT’s biennial convention.

Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, wowed delegates July 18, the first day of AFT’s 2016 convention in Minneapolis, Minn. Delegates, including more than 70 UUP members, were dressed in identical blue AFT shirts with the words “AFT for Hillary 2016.”

They greeted Clinton with a standing ovation and kept the love coming as they waved signs, cheered loudly and peppered her speech with shouts of “We love you, Hillary!”

“Mrs. Clinton gave an inspiring speech, one that will spur AFT members across the country to campaign hard for her in the months leading to the election,” said UUP President Fred Kowal, below, center, an AFT vice president and chair of AFT’s Higher Education Program and Policy Council. “We look forward to working with her to carry out her ambitious plans for public higher ed.” Also pictured are statewide UUP Treasurer Rowena Blackman-Stroud and Buffalo Center Chapter President Tom Tucker.

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Weingarten offers praise

AFT President Randi Weingarten urged delegates to work hard to elect Clinton and thanked her for including AFT in conversations as she shaped her election platform. AFT is the first national union to endorse Clinton for president; the union formally backed her last year.

“Hillary Clinton listens and she follows through, she keeps her promises,” said Weingarten, who introduced Clinton and embraced her before her speech. “I trust that she will work with us to reclaim the promise of public education in every community in America. I trust that she will make free college a reality for working Americans. I trust her to have our back.”

Higher ed agenda

Clinton, who spoke for about 20 minutes, said that as president she would make public colleges and universities tuition-free for students from families with annual incomes of less than $125,000. Students with heavy college loans would be able to refinance them so they can make affordable payments. Teachers and others who go into public service will have the remainder of their college loans waived after 10 years.

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“I know you have some of the most important, hardest jobs in the world and I want to say right from the outset that I’m with you,” Clinton said. “When I am president, you will have a partner in the White House and you will always have a seat at the table.”

Clinton, who said she would stand up for unions as president, took several swipes at presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. She called him a bully who has vowed to slash education spending.

“What should our kids think when he calls women pigs, or mocks a reporter with a disability?” asked Clinton. “Or when he talks about banning one-and-a-half billion Muslims from entering our country? You wouldn’t tolerate that kind of behavior in your homes or classrooms. How can we stand for it from someone running to be president of the United States?”

She branded Pence as one of the most “extreme vice presidential candidates in a generation” who, as governor, undermined the rights of workers, women and the LGBTQ community.

"Neither Mike Pence nor Donald Trump should be anywhere near our children's education," Clinton said.

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Making UUP's voice heard

UUP members, including Vice President for Professionals Philippe Abraham, above, Secretary Eileen Landy, and Membership Development Officer Tom Hoey have been active at the convention. Kowal led AFT's Higher Education divisional meeting July 18 while Abraham chaired the Organizing and Collective Bargaining committee meeting.

The union is sponsoring two resolutions at the convention. One calls for AFT to implement a plan for federal and state legislative and policy reform regarding employment practices for contingent faculty. The other involves establishing an academic fair labor practices code of conduct.

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