The mission of the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, is to improve the lives of our members and their families, to give voice to their legitimate professional, economic and social aspirations, to strengthen the institutions in which we work, to improve the quality of the services we

provide, to bring together all members to assist and support one another and to promote democracy, human rights and freedom in our union, in our nation and throughout the world.


The American Federation of Teachers was founded in 1916 to represent the economic, social and professional interests of classroom teachers…. international union of the AFL-CIO. s an affiliated


The AFT has more than 3,000 local affiliates nationwide, 43 state affiliates, and more than 1.4 million members.


Five divisions within the organization represent the board spectrum of AFTS membership teachers; Paraprofessionals and school-related personnel (PSRP); local, state and federal employees; higher education faculty and staff; and nurses and other healthcare professionals. In addition, the union includes more than 170,000 retire members.


The AFT is governed by its elected officers and delegates to the union’s biennial convention, which sets union policy and elects the union’s officers. Elected leaders are Randy Weingarten, president, Antonia Cortese, secretary-treasurer, Loretta Johnson, executive vice president, and a 39-member executive council. Weingarten also serves as vice president of the AFL-CIO.


In non-convention years, the AFT hosts the Quality Educational Standards in Teaching (QuEST) conference, a professional issues meeting that attracts nearly 3, 000 educators from around the country. AFT’s healthcare, higher education, public employee and PSRP divisions also host yearly professional issues conferences.

The AFT advocates sound, commonsense public education policies, including high academic and conduct standards for students and greater professionalism for teachers and school staff, excellence in public service through cooperative problem-solving and workplace innovations; and high-quality healthcare provided by qualified professionals.

Well Known Members:

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 Mansfied, former HHS Secretary Donna Shalala, and former United Nations Under Secretary and Nobel Peace Prize winner Ralph Bunche.


Since our founding as a union in 1916, the AFT has identified with, participated in and championed the cause of organized labor. Our ranks include teachers, paraprofessionals and school-related personnel, early childhood educators, higher education faculty and staff, nurses and health professionals, and state and local government employees. What binds us together is a commitment to solidarity with workers everywhere and to the quality of the services we provide and the public we serve.As a community of professionals in unison with all working people, we are committed collectively to advancing human rights, opportunity, social and economic justice, freedom of conscience and expression, unfettered civic and political participation, fairness at work, tolerance, democracy and security at home and abroad. The AFT stands for the right of individuals everywhere to form and participate in voluntary democratic, civic, cultural, religious and fraternal institutions for self-help, worship, advocacy and mutual support.

Free, democratic and independent labor unions are the hallmarks of free societies. We are committed to achieving the rights of all workers-irrespective of nationality, citizenship, or employment sector or status-to organize and represent their individual and collective workplace, economic, occupational and professional interest wherever such fights are effectively denied in the United States and throughout the world.

We are committed to the principle of self-determination, fair play; responsiveness and accountability in union governance. Working people and the public are entitled to

know that the unions representing their interests are honest, participatory and unflinchingly and exclusively devoted to the common good.

Values and Principles

We believe that solidarity within and among the members of the AFT, other labor organizations, and those workers soon to be organized is vital to building a movement with the legitimacy and authoritative power to speak effectively for working people and bring their influence to bear at work, in the economy, the practice of our professions and in the determination of domestic and international policy.

We believe in the transformational power of universal free public education as the engine for enabling individuals to achieve their personal aspirations while producing a free, informed, tolerant, united, engaged and productive citizenry.

We believe in the common school where children from all races, religions, national origins and economic classes are brought together to participate in a quality education characterized by high standards, a challenging curriculum, effective instruction, a safe and dignified learning environment, mutual tolerance and respect, and an appreciation for the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.We believe that individuals are entitled to enjoy the fruits of their industry and enterprise, and that mutual responsibility and solidarity create the conditions necessary for nuring individuality, the attainment of personal and collective ambitions, and the competition ad cooperation that characterize humane, strong, democratic and productive societies.

We believe in the liberating force and potential of ideas and their free expression in the advancement of scientific and social progress, in raising the standard of living for all, and in the establishment of international freedom and peace. We take seriously the imperative to participate actively in the political process at all levels, and to promote human rights throughout the world. We are guided by a commitment to building a society here all people have:

  • The right to an excellent free universal public education
  • Freedom of association, conscience and expression
  • Fair and decent working conditions and wages
  • Accessible quality healthcare regardless of income
  • Dignified work and dignified retirement
  • Decent housing and responsive public services
  • A clean and healthful environment
  • Security and peace
  • And a government that promotes opportunity, collective and individual initiative and freedom, protects against discrimination and exploitation, and evens the playing field in curbing abuses of concentrated power and privilege.

These are the enduring values and principles that guided earlier generations of AFT members in overcoming the challenges of their times, that built unions where none existed, gained rights where there weren’t any, won equality before the law where there had been discrimination and injustice, and asserted a role for quality and high standards where professional voice previously had been denied.


Membership in the AFT is usually established by joining an AFT local, a council of locals or in some cases a statewide affiliate. Please note that most AFT locals are organized around a specific employer (such as a school district, a hospital or a municipality).

Membership requests are handled by our affiliates and not at the national level, except for associate membership.

Associate Membership:

TeIf you are not eligible to join the union through your workplace or live in a jurisdiction where there are no AFT locals or state affiliates, you may be eligible for AFT’S associate member program. Also, students are eligible to join as associate members. We offer two types of memberships. With our $ 30 basic associate membership, you will receive our award-winning quarterly magazine, American Educator, plus a subscription to one of our regular newspaper (American Teacher or AFT On Campus), access to group insurance rates and other member benefits and discounts, and an invitation to participate in the union’s biennial professional issues conference for educators. Our $60 membership for working teachers includes all theses benefits plus $1 million in occupational liability insurance and up to $10,000 in legal defense protection. Both types of membership are available at reduced rates for two-year periods.

Table Membership in NEA and AFT

Year NEA MembershipAFT Membership
OVERVIEWComparison of the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFI)
Total membership (2003)2,700,0001,000,000
Members who are classroom teachers2,200,000500,000
PresidentReg WeaverSandra Feldman
President’s term2 Years Sandra Feldman 2 years (no maximum) (maximum 6 years per person)2 years (no maximum)
Organizational viewProfessional associationUnion affiliation with AFL-CIO
Organizational atmosphereRelatively formal (white collar)Relatively informal (blue collar)
Geographic strengthSuburban and rural areasLarge and medium-size cities

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