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Randi Weingarten
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RANDI WEINGARTEN is president of the 1.6 million-member American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, which represents teachers; paraprofessionals and school-related personnel; higher education faculty and staff; nurses and other healthcare professionals; local, state and federal employees; and early childhood educators. She was elected in July 2008, following 11 years of service as an AFT vice president.

In the months immediately following her election, Weingarten launched major efforts to place education reform and innovation high on the nation’s agenda. In September 2008, Weingarten led the development of the AFT Innovation Fund, a groundbreaking initiative to support sustainable, innovative and collaborative reform projects developed by members and their local unions to strengthen our public schools.

Weingarten served for 12 years as president of the United Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 2, representing approximately 200,000 nonsupervisory educators in the New York City public school system, as well as home child care providers and other workers in health, law and education.

For 10 years, Weingarten chaired New York City’s Municipal Labor Committee, an umbrella organization for the city’s 100-plus public sector unions, including those representing higher education and other public service employees. As chair of the MLC, she coordinated labor negotiations and bargaining for benefits on behalf of the MLC unions’ 365,000 members.

From 1986 to 1998, Weingarten served as counsel to UFT president Sandra Feldman, taking a lead role in contract negotiations and enforcement, and in lawsuits in which the union fought for adequate school funding and building conditions. A teacher of history at Clara Barton High School in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights from 1991 to 1997, Weingarten helped her students win several state and national awards debating constitutional issues.

Elected as the local union’s assistant secretary in 1995 and as treasurer two years later, she became UFT president after Feldman became president of the AFT. Weingarten was elected to her first full term as UFT president in 1998 and was re-elected three times.

Weingarten is known as a reform-minded leader who has demonstrated her commitment to improving schools, hospitals and public institutions for children, families and their communities. She has fought to make sure teachers and school support personnel are treated with respect and dignity, have a voice in the education of their students, and are given the support and resources they need to succeed in the classroom.

With her leadership as AFT president, the union has pursued an agenda that reforms education by holding everyone accountable, revamping how teachers are evaluated, and ensuring that children have access to broad and deep curriculum as well as wraparound services. The AFT agenda fights against finger-pointing and calls for a continued investment in education. It also highlights the work that teachers, nurses and public employees do every day to make a difference in the lives of others.

Weingarten holds degrees from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations and the Cardozo School of Law. She worked as a lawyer for the Wall Street firm of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan from 1983 to 1986. She is an active member of the Democratic National Committee and numerous professional, civic and philanthropic organizations. Born in 1957 and raised in Rockland County, N.Y., Weingarten now resides on Long Island and in Washington, D.C.

Entries by Randi Weingarten

How the Teacher Shortage Could Turn Into a Crisis

(216) Comments | Posted April 16, 2016 | 11:01 PM

The winner of a $1 million prize honoring excellence in teaching set off shockwaves last year when she said that, given the current climate, she would not encourage people to consider teaching in public schools.

Perhaps that declaration, from veteran teacher Nancie Atwell, shouldn't have come as a...

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A Coordinated National Effort to Decimate Public Schools

(201) Comments | Posted April 13, 2016 | 1:43 PM

Late last year, after news was leaked about a well-funded plan to convert half of all public schools in Los Angeles to charters within eight years, the education community balked. The intentions of the plan's architect -- the Broad Foundation -- were put into stark relief.

It wasn't a plan...

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America's Rich Diversity Should Be Reflected in Our Teaching Force

(14) Comments | Posted March 29, 2016 | 2:24 PM

The United States has an enormous amount of work to do to recruit, support and retain a teaching force that reflects America's rich diversity. We'll need allies and resolute action to accomplish this, not unfounded accusations such as those in Erika Sanzi's March 23 Huffington Post piece.
...

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A Fight for the Very Soul of Our Country

(31) Comments | Posted March 20, 2016 | 2:16 AM

It's one of my proudest moments as a civics teacher -- and I didn't have to say a word: I had helped the students in my American history class prepare to debate whether the decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was justified.

But once the debate...

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What Every American Should Know

(0) Comments | Posted March 1, 2016 | 4:38 PM

I remember when E. D. Hirsch published Cultural Literacy and the controversy sparked by his list of things he believed every American should know. His point (I won't reignite the debate) was that we must all be ready to move outside our comfort zones and work together to make progress....

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Talking 'Bout Our Generations

(35) Comments | Posted February 21, 2016 | 12:00 AM

There comes an uneasy moment in the life of a longtime, anti-establishment agitator when one realizes that she's viewed as ... the establishment. While there's no "Question Authority" T-shirt under my blazer, I still question and push back on (and sometimes get arrested by)...

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Yearning to Breathe Free

(13) Comments | Posted January 16, 2016 | 11:14 PM

I recently had the thrill of seeing the Broadway musical Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda's brilliant mashup of history and hip-hop. Alexander Hamilton's story, of an impoverished youth immigrating to America and making his mark on his new country, is both remarkable and relatable. And it's a reminder that our...

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Education Policies Worthy of the Name 'Reform'

(6) Comments | Posted December 19, 2015 | 10:16 PM

The month before standardized tests begin each school year, Stephen Lazar, a National Board-certified history and English teacher at Harvest Collegiate High School in New York City, tells his students that he is going to "turn into a bad teacher. ... No more research, no more discussion, no...

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Charter Schools as Incubators or Charter Schools Inc.?

(10) Comments | Posted November 15, 2015 | 8:26 AM

When you hear the words "charter school," what comes to mind? High expectations? High student attrition? High achievement? Lack of transparency?

There's no right or wrong answer, because charter schools, like other public and private schools, vary widely. The top-ranked high school in Louisiana is a unionized charter...

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Race in America: Changing Reality By Facing It

(55) Comments | Posted October 18, 2015 | 5:00 PM

It has been said that racism is America's original sin. And today, well into our country's third century, we are far from free of it.

"Separate but equal" is no longer the law of the land, but for too many people, it is still a fact of life. African-Americans...

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When Unions Are Strong, Families Are Strong

(62) Comments | Posted September 20, 2015 | 8:26 AM

Republicans have staked out endless signature issues: shutting down the government, vilifying immigrants, denouncing rights like paid sick leave and equal pay because they are "women's issues," privatizing education, and -- wait for it -- obliterating the rights of working...

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The Power of Collective Voice

(29) Comments | Posted July 19, 2015 | 8:25 AM

Teaching is our heart. Our students are our soul. And the union is our spine.

I heard that sentiment over and over again this past week during the American Federation of Teachers' biennial TEACH conference, one of the largest professional development conferences for educators in the nation. That's...

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Walking the Walk for Working Families

(4) Comments | Posted June 20, 2015 | 8:22 PM

As we fight our way back from the recession, it's clear that our economy isn't working for everyone. Too many are out of work or have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet. Too many don't have the skills...

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Preying on the Promise of Higher Education

(65) Comments | Posted May 16, 2015 | 7:28 PM

There's a promise we make to the next generation: Graduate from college and you can get ahead. Indeed, recent studies show that college graduates earn $1 million more than high school graduates over their lifetimes.

Yet, as we make this promise, public higher education institutions nationwide are facing a

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A Step Forward in Washington, A Step Back in New York

(6) Comments | Posted April 19, 2015 | 12:48 PM

Something stunning happened this week in Congress. The Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted 22-0 to overhaul No Child Left Behind. That's right, policymakers from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) listened to the people they're sworn to represent and found...

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A Tale of Two States

(64) Comments | Posted March 15, 2015 | 12:10 AM

It's a tale of two states.

They sit side by side, each taking in the views of Lake Superior. Their economies both grew from foundations in manufacturing, farming and mining, and they each boast a strong history of organized labor. And in 2010, still reeling from the recession, they elected...

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#Selma50: Voter Education, Suppression and Obligation

(3) Comments | Posted March 8, 2015 | 1:12 PM

Before I was a union leader, I was a high school social studies teacher. As my students -- juniors and seniors -- inched closer and closer to voter registration age, I worked hard not only to help them learn the skills and knowledge they needed to succeed, but also to...

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Leveling the Playing Field for Our Kids

(31) Comments | Posted February 15, 2015 | 8:23 AM

A high-quality public education can build much-needed skills and knowledge. It can help children reach their God-given potential. It can stabilize communities and democracies. It can strengthen economies. It can combat the kind of fear and despair that evolves into hatred.

On my recent visit to Israel, the...

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Renewing America's Labor Movement

(4) Comments | Posted January 18, 2015 | 8:14 AM

Across the country, people are clamoring to be heard. They want a voice.

These are people who work hard but never see their wages keep up. After a lifetime of work, they don't have a pension or savings for a secure retirement. They rack...

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Creating Healthy Minds With First Book

(0) Comments | Posted December 30, 2014 | 9:42 AM

I can't imagine my life without books. My father was an electrical engineer, and my mother was a public school teacher. Books were an integral part of my childhood. Throughout my career as a lawyer, teacher and labor leader, books have remained my constant companion -- stuffed into a briefcase,...

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