From Randi Weingarten’s speech to a national union conference in D.C., where she is now being joined by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at a town hall-style meeting:

I hope you’re as outraged as I am when our critics say that unions are part of the problem, not the solution; that we are only in it for ourselves; that we represent adults against kids; and that we are a selfish special interest set against the public interest.

We won’t let them take away our jobs. We won’t let them cut our pay. We won’t let them plunder our pensions. And I will be damned if I let them define who we are.

Because nobody-nobody-goes into teaching to feather his or her own nest. And this union, which proudly works on its members’ behalf, has always been about something bigger. That is why we fight-24/7/365-for the social and economic conditions that will help our students do better in school.

Apparently pins being handed out to members say “with us, not to us.” The conference, called QuEST, focuses on best practices for teaching and learning. Weingarten is the president of the American Federation of Teachers, and her term as president of the New York City union expires at the end of the month.

Her full prepared remarks are below: