The American Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, was founded in 1916 and today represents 1.6 million members in more than 3,000 local affiliates nationwide.
Five divisions within the AFT represent the broad spectrum of the AFT’s membership: pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; and nurses and other healthcare professionals. In addition, the AFT represents approximately 80,000 early childhood educators and nearly 250,000 retiree members.
The AFT is governed by its elected officers and by delegates to the union’s biennial convention, which sets union policy. Elected leaders are President Randi Weingarten, Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson and Executive Vice President Mary Cathryn Ricker, along with a 42-member executive council.
Many well-known Americans have been AFT members, including John Dewey, Albert Einstein, Hubert Humphrey, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Frank McCourt, Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, former Senate Majority Leader and Ambassador to Japan Mike Mansfield, former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, and former United Nations Undersecretary and Nobel Peace Prize winner Ralph Bunche.
In May, it will be a year that I’ve been with Bath Iron Works as a sandblaster. I came in as a general laborer. It’s an L4 position where you assist other trades. You learn plasma cutting and torch cutting and grinding. You assist other trades and you learn a little bit about what each trade does. It gives you the opportunity to try things out and see what you want to do.
It’s a difficult job without a doubt…I’ve always been somebody to challenge myself, that person where GIRLS don’t do that…well oh yea, I’ll show you that they do. That’s been my thing so when the position came up…it seemed like it would be a challenge, something to see if I’d like to do. Keep up with the boys I guess.
I love my job. I love the crew that I work with, they’re like family. It’s definitely a young person’s job. I won’t do it forever. It was a lot to learn. A lot of stress at the beginning.
There are different levels of sandblasting I suppose but this is massive. We blast the entire units to get them ready for paint. So you know you get a three-inch hose, blasting out steel grit sometimes 120/150 pounds of pressure which is enough to blow you right over…which had happened. You learn to do what you must do. Sometimes you are up on a three- to four-foot aluminum horse when you’re getting ready to blast and it could blow you off. So you learn ways to make sure you’re not blown off. I had to learn this stuff the hard way.
It’s a lot of physical strength so I had to struggle in that area. These guys here automatically have that strength…I got the mental strength but not so strong, I had to work up to it. Probably the first month I was at home almost in tears…your body hurts in EVERY place it could.
But once you get it, it gets easier you know…you stop fighting the job, you learn to do stuff that works WITH you. Like I said you brace yourself or you’re even using the line itself up against something to blast because, with all that pressure, it’s difficult to control. But it’s awesome. You work really hard and when you are done you are exhausted but you know you feel like you earned you day.
This is my first job being in a union. This has been a huge change to me altogether, prior to this in aviation I was a contractor, so it’s completely different. As far as benefits I had to do all that on my own. So it’s nice to know that you have the union to back you up when and if I ever need them. The benefits are great, I love my job here.
I like blasting, it’s been a good experience and you’re proud of yourself when you are done at the end of the night…EXHAUSTED but you feel like you did your job. AND you’re working …and in blast it’s different than any other department. You’re working next to guys who are sweating the same time as you are because it can get 115/120 degrees inside the full hood. They’re working as hard as you are, they are going to help you out whether you are a girl…they do the same thing for the other guys. They’re a family, they’ve got each other’s backs.