Who knew, last August, when the two of us were at an NEA executive team orientation in Chicago with our executive director, Armand Tiberio, what would transpire? While the three of us made the decision to take a much deeper dive into the racial justice and social justice work that had begun before we took office, who knew that a virus would turn our entire world upside down and that the senseless murder of one more Black person, George Floyd, would spark the nation to rise up and demand that we take a deeper look at injustices that exist not just in our schools, but in our entire American system?
We've only just begun
While the reading, reflecting, listening, discussing and deep learning we are doing together within WEA leadership, our actions must speak louder than our words. Like most of you, we have spent most of our time at home trying to stop the spread of a virus that has taken so many lives -- including a disproportionate number of lives of people with black and brown skin -- we did get out and about to participate in marches or rallies to support Black Lives Matter. Our hearts were filled with warmth as WEA members masked up and wore Black Lives Matter at School T-shirts: you marched silently in Seattle; you chanted in unison with union sisters and brothers all over the state; you stood on corners in small towns, in suburbs and in Olympia. We've only just begun. We will continue this work and we will be on the front lines interrupting racism and interrupting other social injustices.
We recognize that it is also Pride Month -- a month usually filled with parades and gatherings to recognize, celebrate and stand with our LGBTQ+ WEA members and students. We were pleasantly surprised with the historic U.S. Supreme Court's 6-3 decision this month that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects gay, lesbian and transgender employees from discrimination based on sex.
DREAMers also get a break
In another victory for so many students, and indeed for some of our own younger WEA members, the highest court in the nation also blocked the Trump administration's plan to dismantle DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), a program that has so far protected some 700,000 DREAMers from deportation. Under the program, qualified individuals brought to our country as children were given temporary legal status if they graduated from high school or were honorably discharged from the military and passed a background check. The decision was narrow, but powerful in rebuking the administration from trying to abolish the program. We have work to do to ensure their justice.
Leading by example
WEA Vice President Janie White was part of a breakfast panel on Juneteenth hosted by congressional candidate Kristine Reeves. Joined by Reps. Debra Entenman and Melanie Morgan, and Teamsters Joint Council 28 Political and Legislative Director Shaunie Wheeler, the five spoke about the leadership of Black women in the labor and political movements since the emancipation of slaves.
Your dedication is mind boggling
We are blown away by the way our 97,000 members handled the closing of our school buildings. Your ability to "fly the plane" while building it and your perseverance in reaching out to connect with students to make sure they were "doing okay" goes beyond the scope of anyone's imagination. We are, of course, not done yet and the uncertainty of the upcoming school year hangs heavy in our hearts and minds, but we have hope. We thank you and we believe in you and we have hope. We see glimmers of what might be and we are chasing those glimmers because, like you, we know every student attending our schools deserves to grow up with hope and with support and with the knowledge that they can grow to be just who they are meant to be. Please take time to rejuvenate and relax. It's the only way we will succeed.
WEA Board minutes
Here are highlights from our June meeting and minutes from the April meeting.