#TogetherWeThrive: Recap of Texas AFT’s 31st Biennial Convention

Daniel Alvarez Photo

For the first time since 2019, Texas AFT members convened in person for our statewide convention, passing resolutions, electing officers, and managing the business of our union. 

The 31st Biennial Convention, hosted jointly by McAllen AFT, PSJA AFT, Edinburg AFT, and La Joya AFT, arrived on the heels of the 88th Texas Legislature and our #RespectUsExpectUs campaign. While state lawmakers let every Texas public school employee down this session, our union has much to be proud of. 

If anything, the legislative disappointments underscored the need to recommit to our fight for a stronger public education system and grow our movement. As was said so many times throughout the weekend, together we thrive

Keynote Addresses

Left: Sen. Roland Gutierrez accepts the Acts of Courage Award. Right: Dwight Harris, past president of Victoria AFT, reacts to the emotional speech. Daniel Alvarez Photo. 

Sen. Roland Gutierrez 

Our convention took place just over a year after the tragedy at Robb Elementary in Uvalde. It was fitting, then, that our union was joined by a lawmaker who has been steadfast and unrelenting in the fight against gun violence in our schools and communities. 

Sen. Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio) received the Acts of Courage Award from Texas AFT on Friday, June 23. 

“When you talk about courage, you have to talk about cowardice,” Gutierrez said, in accepting the award. “Let’s talk about the cowardice of the Texas Legislature.” 
In his remarks, which you can watch in full on our Youtube or Facebook accounts, Gutierrez discussed the horrifying events and failures in Uvalde, as well as the refusal to act on school safety and funding by state leaders.

President Zeph Capo

Texas AFT President Zeph Capo delivered his State of Our Union address on the opening day of the convention. You can watch his complete remarks on our Facebook accounts. 

“I am proud to tell you this: the state of our union is as strong as it’s ever been,” Capo told convention delegates. “Unfortunately, because of [Gov. Greg Abbott] and his friends under the dome, the state of our schools is that they are on life support.”

As proof, Capo dropped several eye-popping statistics of legislative activism: 

  • Our union mobilized 26,621 action-takers across Texas
  • We sent 92,229 letters to lawmakers
  • We made 4,331 phone calls (that we could track)
  • More than 500 members came to Austin to rally, visit lawmakers, and testify

Capo also highlighted several members who ran for office in 2022 but came up just short, emphasizing the only way to win real respect from state legislators would be for us to elect more real allies in 2024. 

AFT Executive Vice President Evelyn DeJesus 

AFT Executive Vice President Evelyn DeJesus delivered this year’s keynote speech, emphasizing the innovative role Texas AFT members play in our national union family. 

“You can put your list of accomplishments over the last two years up against just about any other state in the country,” DeJesus told the delegates, before mentioning monumental local pay raise wins and the legislative defeat of private school vouchers in the 88th Legislative Session. “Especially given what you’ve been up against.”

Watch her speech on our Facebook accounts. 

“Everything you do matters,” she said in closing. “Every flier handed out, every meeting, every press conference you attend, every trip you make to Austin, every phone call, every text & email, every door knocked, every conversation with a colleague who’d rather just sit things out.”

Officer Elections

Congratulations to President Zeph Capo and Secretary-Treasurer Ray McMurrey, both re-elected by convention delegates over the weekend. 

The upcoming biennium will be the third term in office for both Capo and McMurrey. Prior to being elected to lead the state federation, both served as presidents of local unions: Capo for the Houston Federation of Teachers and McMurrey for the Corpus Christi Federation of Teachers.

Resolutions Passed

  • Together We Thrive: Our Working Conditions Are Our Students’ Learning Conditions. Texas AFT will assist local affiliates with advocacy campaigns to change local policies on working conditions. Our goal is to ensure adequate staff and reasonable workloads for custodial workers, bus drivers, and paraprofessionals, and that plans be implemented with safety, equity, and efficiency. Finally, we will establish a Paperwork Reduction Task Force to catalog the amount of data and reports that our union’s members are required to submit. 
  • Beyond Surviving: Creating and Sustaining an Environment to Thrive. Texas AFT will research opportunities and resources to support local “Grow Your Own” tuition-free programs to help paraprofessionals and support staff earn their teaching certifications. Texas AFT will assist local affiliates with educating stakeholders on educator evaluation systems. And we will advocate for innovative teacher leader programs and assist local affiliates with gaining support for them. 
  • Changing Social Security to Provide Full Access and Equity for all Educational Employees. Texas AFT will advocate for the passage of the Social Security Fairness Act of 2023 to close the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision loopholes. Texas AFT will advocate for all federal and state legislation to give education employees in Texas full access to Social Security pensions. Texas AFT will ask the same of the national AFT. 
  • Respect and Retain Our Support Professionals and Increase Their Pay to a $25 Minimum. Texas AFT’s PSRP Committee calls on all Texas AFT local unions to redouble their efforts to support and recognize the many contributions of support professionals. Our goal is to raise base pay for support staff to at least $25 per hour for full-time employment. Texas AFT pledges to support local actions to improve support professionals’ working conditions and pay. This includes community college staff. 
  • Providing Support in Building Union Power for Higher Education Workers in Texas. Texas AFT renews our commitment to higher education organizing and pledges to step up our efforts to build our existing higher education local unions, as well as remain open to possible new higher education organizing.  
  • The Fight for Higher Education. Texas AFT will fight alongside faculty to protect academic freedom and academic integrity by repelling legislative attacks and supporting higher education affiliates’ efforts to extend protections and reinvigorate shared governance. We will also fight to ensure all professional and administrative staff are recognized as vital partners in educating students. Texas AFT is also resolved to fight for higher education to be affordable and accessible to all students. 
  • Remove Big Money from Politics. Texas AFT will advocate for getting big money out of politics, including the passage of laws to overturn Citizens United vs. FEC. We stand in favor of all elections being publicly funded, so that no wealthy corporations or donors can buy an office.
  • An Economic System that Serves the Needs of the People and the Planet. Texas AFT will advocate for an economic system that is based on serving the needs of the people and the planet before profit-making.
  • An Economic Bill of Rights. Texas AFT will advocate for an Economic Bill of Rights that includes but is not limited to: all people have the right to a quality living wage and a job; quality housing; an education to the highest level; full health care; clean environment; and a secure retirement. 

50th Anniversary

From left to right: John Cole, past Texas AFT president; Becky Moeller, first woman to lead the Texas AFL-CIO; Dwight Harris, founding member of Victoria AFT and current Texas AFT lobbyist; and Zeph Capo, president of Texas AFT. Daniel Alvarez Photo. 

2024 marks Texas AFT’s 50th anniversary as a state federation. We began a year of celebrations at this year’s convention. 

Past and present leaders of Texas AFT and the Texas AFL-CIO opened the convention with a panel discussion of our union’s history, which you can listen to in full online. In a fascinating and wide-ranging discussion, former Texas AFT President John Cole, former Texas AFL-CIO President Becky Moeller, and former Victoria AFT President Dwight Harris shared their own experiences as union leaders in Texas and nuggets from the rich tapestry of our union. 

We teased out some highlights of the conversation on our Twitter account. And there will be much more to come over the next year. 

2024 AFT Convention

Save the Date: AFT National Convention

July 22-25, 2024

Houston, Texas

We look forward to the opportunity to welcome our AFT union siblings to the Lone Star State next year. The AFT Convention in Houston will close our 50th anniversary celebration, and we have some exciting things planned!