AFT President Randi Weingarten encouraged delegates to remember that the commonalities they share far outweigh any differences they hold.
"I asked myself before starting this speech: 'What would Al (Shanker) do?" Weingarten said.
She called on delegates to rally behind the new union officers. "The character of our union will be tested by how we turn the page and come together," said Weingarten. "Our new leaders deserve, and will need, our strong support as we collectively move forward."
Noting the anti-union efforts of individuals like the Koch brothers, Weingarten told delegates that unionists must be solution-driven and tough. "Our opponents are doubling down and they can spend unlimited funds and they will stop at nothing," she said. "These are our fights - but we won't be successful unless we leave here shoulder-to-shoulder and hand-in-hand with a common purpose, mission and bond."
"We are a family. We must pull together to fight the forces against us," she said. "Strong labor unions and public schools don't guarantee outcomes, but they do guarantee opportunities. Public education is under assault by those who want to call it - one of the United States' greatest accomplishments - a failure."
Weingarten saluted the dedication and hard work of NYSUT's outgoing leadership. "They have worked hard and sacrificed, as every leader and activist in this room knows, because you've all sacrificed your personal lives in the furtherance of our struggle," said Weingarten. "They've devoted themselves to the goals of our union and, no matter who you voted for, they deserve our thanks and gratitude for their service and devotion to our collective cause."