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Isn’t it true national unions are really structured to benefit themselves, not the local unions?

(This Q&A is part of a continuing series that we introduced with the “Taking a Hard Look at Our Future Starts with Asking the Hard Questions” article)

AFT’s Model Is Different

This may be the case for some national unions, but in our exploration and examination of AFT, we found a different model.  In our in depth discussions with AFT, it was clear that their focus is creating and expanding the labor movement, not to support themselves, but the greater good of the working middle class. AFT President Randi Weingarten stated, “the more density we have, the more of a foothold we have in the fight.” 

The combined financial resources of AFT enables a more robust local union, which includes funding support when necessary. For example, AFT has a Militancy/Defense Fund that supports many areas of the union’s work and priorities. Funding goes directly to affiliates to bolster efforts to protect the rights of members and to counter extremist attacks on the services our members provide. The Militancy/Defense Fund has helped affiliates confront campaigns to defund and destabilize public higher education and target educators, as well as the legal fight to take on predatory loan servicers, like Navient.  As you recall, even without an affiliation, AFT reached out allowing UHPA to participate in their Federal Public Loan Forgiveness Program which has now saved UHPA members a total of $850,000. 

AFT also has a Solidarity Fund, which supports member engagement around key issues and campaign support to defeat dangerous ballot measures at the state levels. This fund helps AFT’s state affiliates counter initiatives and attacks designed to weaken public higher education, public services, bargaining rights, healthcare, retirement security, etc.  Again, without an affiliation, AFT contributed $10,000.00 to help UHPA members who were adversely affected by the Maui wildfires that occurred in August of this year. 

Specifically, an affiliation with AFT will provide the following:

  • Access to membership organizing support and expertise  
  • Access to dramatically enhanced membership benefits  through AFT+ Member Benefits combines the purchasing power of our 1.7 million members to provide a rich array of discounts, services and benefits that go beyond the workplace. Discounts on travel, car rentals, mortgages and more help make life easier. Many of these services are available to family members, too. In the last few years, the AFT added new benefits that meet the moment, such as trauma counseling to support recovery from personal and workplace challenges, LifeBrand subscriptions that help protect members’ online reputation, and Summer to minimize student loan payments.
  • Access to the policy expertise of AFTʻs Higher Education Department for research 
  • Access to the policy expertise of AAUP, the organization that developed the principles of tenure and faculty governance for higher education 
  • The AFT has already provided support for faculty who were eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program UHPA members saved a total of $850,000 thanks to the partnership with AFT
  • The AFT provided financial support for faculty impacted by the Maui Wildfires by sending UHPA $10,000
  • The AFT currently represents faculty and higher ed staff at nine University of Hawaii peer institutions and nine benchmark institutions that have bargained to protect and expand academic freedom, and to raise salary minimums and bridge funding
  • Access to enhanced legislative and political support  through AFT’s State Legislative Initiatives Department, in conjunction with Organizing and Field Services, works closely with affiliates to craft political and legislative campaigns that fight back against attacks on faculty, union members, tenure and institutional funding to name a few. Such campaigns have included the anti-higher education; anti-tenure; and anti-diversity, equity and inclusion bills in Florida, Ohio and Texas, as well as funding attacks against college and university systems in Connecticut and New Jersey.

As the saying goes “Action speaks louder than words.”

Feedback is Always Welcomed

As always, we’re open to feedback from our members, so please don’t hesitate to email those suggestions to