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

The AFT has more than 3,000 local affiliates nationwide, 43 state affiliates, and more than 1.3 million members.

Five divisions within the organization represent the broad spectrum of AFT's 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 retiree members.

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.

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