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Asian American and Pacific Islander Contributions to the Labor Movement

The Transcontinental Railroad was completed on May 10, 1869 after roughly 20,000 Chinese immigrant workers did the dangerous work of laying tracks and forming tunnels for the Central Pacific Railroad company.  For this work they were paid 30% to 50% less than their white counterparts. Long hours, dangerous working conditions, and inequitable pay resulted in 3,000 workers on strike in June of 1867; at the time, the largest worker action in the history of the United States.

In the month of May we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) heritage, a diverse community that represents over 30 countries.  Today, AAPI workers can be found across most industries in the United States as well in our labor movement continuing the fight for workers’ rights.  Activists like Philip Vera Cruz, a Filipino labor organizer who helped form the United Farm Workers Union, and May Chen, an organizer and immigrant activist who helped to found the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), make up the diversity of the AAPI labor movement.  

APALA was formed in 1992, bringing together the diverse body of AAPI workers in solidarity within the AFL-CIO to advance worker, immigrant, and civil rights.  We invite you to learn more about the diversity of our labor movement this month.  Register here to join APALA’s May 12th labor town hall on Anti-Asian Racism discussing building a labor movement that is “inclusive of all workers of color and that fights to end racism with the same fervor as we fight for workers’ rights.” If you are interested in getting involved with Michigan’s APALA chapter, contact AFT Michigan’s Internal Organizing & Leadership Development Coordinator Meenakshi Mukherjee at

May 1 Education Policy Conference

Thank you to everyone who was part of making Saturday’s Education Policy Conference a great success. Our day was kicked off by Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist, who laid out the administration’s vision for building a healthy, sustainable, and just state and answered questions from members. Staff from the State Budget Office and (AFT member) Rep. Regina Weiss broke down the K-12, community college, and university budgets. A real highlight was the panel on dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline, moderated by DFT 231 Exec. VP Lakia Wilson-Lumpkins and featuring Nichollette Hoard of the Washtenaw County Public Defender’s Office, Peri Stone-Palmquist of the Student Advocacy Center, and Detroit elementary math and science teacher Melanie Wiggins. Finally, we broke out by constituency to strategize about how to make our education system more safe and just for everyone involved.

One major takeaway from the Conference was that it’s more important than ever to contribute to the AFT Michigan Political Action Committee. Do you remember that in 2018, Michigan voters ended partisan gerrymandering and created a nonpartisan commission that is working to draw the districts for the 2022 elections? That means we have our best chance to elect a pro-public education legislature in decades if we all do our part. Just like with our dues, our political contributions go a lot further when we pool them together through our union and make sure they are targeted to the most tightly contested races.

Please become a recurring donor to the AFT Michigan PAC, signing up to give $5, $10, or $20 a month.

Support the Teaching Assistants Union at WMU

Western Michigan University is planning deep cuts to the Teaching Assistant budget in the College of Arts & Sciences. This will reduce instructional staff, overwork existing TAs & faculty, and restrict the number of grad students WMU can attract.

Sign this petition to support the Teaching Assistants Union (AFT Local 1729) in their call for admin to stop these cuts. 

Stand with UPAMM Rally on Tuesday, May 4 

The United Physician Assistants of Michigan Medicine are pushing UM to settle a fair first contract and are holding a rally in Ann Arbor Tuesday, May 4 from 11am to 1pm. Please register at:

Survey for International Students & Scholars

Earlier this month, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that they are seeking information on how to improve their processes and address obstacles. This is an opportunity for us to have our voices heard and push for meaningful changes that can make the lives of international students and scholars easier—and it doesn’t require Congress to do anything! AFT has created a survey in which members can share information about their experiences applying for/receiving/renewing visas or other immigration benefits (such as DACA, TPS, green cards, citizenship etc.) which will be compiled into an AFT organizational comment. The information can be shared in the survey anonymously. The deadline to fill it out is May 7, 2021 at 5pm EST. 

The Equity Challenge

The United Way of Southeastern Michigan (UWSEM) has launched the 21-Day Equity Challenge.  The Equity Challenge is a free, self-paced email and community engagement campaign that runs from May 21-June 18. Participants will receive an email each weekday during the Challenge that focuses on a different equity-based topic, which includes curated resources to learn more about historical inequities in our region and how they can take action to promote equity and inclusion within their day-to-day lives. In addition to daily emails, there is a virtual community-wide kickoff event, closing ceremony, and weekly facilitated roundtable sessions to discuss the topics with fellow participants.

Welcome Kirsten, Thank You Ian

Longtime lead negotiator Kirsten Herold is now the president of the UM Lecturers Employee Organization, AFT Local 6244. Kirsten takes over from Ian Robinson, who has done a tremendous job not only leading the local, but also revitalizing the local labor council as president of the Huron Valley Area Labor Federation (and as a member of our Ad Board). Ian will continue to lead the HVALF and remain an active member within LEO. Congratulations to Kirsten and thank you to Ian for all your service to the labor movement.

2021 Rollie Hopgood Future Teachers Scholarship Award Applications Now Available!

AFT Michigan has three eligibility categories of the “Rollie Hopgood Future Teachers Scholarship Award” for qualifying individuals.

Scholarship categories and links to applications and forms are:

  1. Graduating senior of an AFT Michigan high school with the goal of becoming a teacher;
  1. AFT Michigan PSRP dues paying member for at least one academic year enrolled (full- or part-time) in a teacher certification program at a college or university;


  1. AFT Michigan dues paying member for at least one academic year son(s) and/or daughter(s) who is a graduating senior with the goal of becoming a teacher.

Click here to download the applications.  If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Linda Moore at

Upcoming Professional Development 

For All Abilities: Mindfulness and Yoga with Grand Love

Tuesday, May, at 6:00 p.m. EDT | Register

Join DeAnn Albertson-Fontanella to connect with your inner self, through asanas, breathing and meditation. How can we take care of ourselves in a pandemic? Mindfulness is beneficial for all. The instructor will share how she practices yoga with adults and children, and a 30-minute chair yoga practice that is gentle for all and can be modified for all abilities. Mindful moments and self-care strategies will also be shared.

Meditation and Mindfulness Practices for the Busy Mind

Wednesday, May 5, at 5:00 p.m. EDT | Register

In a world full of chaos and chronic busyness, it can be difficult to find a state of presence and clarity. Commonly reported benefits of mindfulness and meditation include reduced anxiety, improved focus, reduced blood pressure and pain management. Come back for a follow-up session with Kelly Trautner, AFT director of Healthcare, where we will spend some time talking about the research supporting these practices and how you can incorporate mindfulness and meditation into your self-care toolbox. You will be invited to try some new, beginner-friendly techniques.

Practicing Mindfulness with the Holistic Life Foundation

Thursday, May 6, at 5:30 p.m. EDT | Register

The Holistic Life Foundation creates opportunities for young adults to become a generation of healthy, supported, mindful students with the knowledge, access and support to be successful. Join this webinar to hear the history of the HLF and the background of its co-founders, Ali and Atman Smith, and Andres Gonzalez. You’ll also learn about the new HLF Satellite Initiative Programs, specifically HLF Akwesasne, and practices for stress reduction, movement and breathing techniques.

Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage

Celebrate the generations of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans who have enriched global society, playing a critical role in its development and success. With our wealth of prek-12 digital resources, you and your students can explore the remarkable contributions that AAPI Americans have given to history, culture, the sciences, industry, government and more. In addition to recognizing the vast achievements of the AAPI community, work with your students and community to understand diverse perspectives and the difficult struggles that AAPI Americans have grappled with throughout the history of the United States.

In solidarity, 

David Hecker, President

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