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AFT Resolutions


WHEREAS, the Occupational Safety and Health Act was signed into law on Dec. 29, 1970, with a mission of preventing work-related injuries, illnesses and fatalities by issuing and enforcing workplace standards for safety and health; and

WHEREAS, public employees suffer debilitating workplace injuries and fatalities, in many categories, at substantially higher rates than their private sector counterparts. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2008 state and local government workers had higher rates of work-related injury and illness compared with rates in private industry (3.9 per 10,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers in the private sector compared to a rate of 6.3 for state and local government); and

WHEREAS, 21 states and territories operate plans covering both public and private sector employees, and four states—Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey and New York—and the territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands operate public employee only plans. Private sector employees in these states remain under federal OSHA jurisdiction; and

WHEREAS, there are 25 states where public employees are not covered by OSHA workplace safety standards. As a result, more than 8 million public employees are denied the right to a safe and healthy workplace. Without these OSHA protections and responsibilities, public employees face an undue risk of being killed, injured or sickened on the job; and

WHEREAS, the state of Illinois became the most recent state to adopt an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) state plan. New federal funding will give Illinois added resources to protect more than 1 million public employees—including school employees, state and local government employees and employees in high-risk professions, such as corrections officers, firefighters and transportation workers; and

WHEREAS, the Obama administration has proposed an increase in the OSHA budget to allow OSHA to "vigorously enforce workplace safety laws and whistleblower protections, and ensure the safety and health of American workers"; and

WHEREAS, the proposed Protecting America's Workers Act (PAWA) of 2009 would extend universal coverage to all workers in state and local government; and

WHEREAS, far too many public employees have fallen through the cracks of OSHA coverage for far too long:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers work with its affiliates and other unions in states where public employees are currently denied OSHA program coverage in order to build support for such coverage; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT call on the Obama administration to continue its efforts to improve OSHA funding to undo the damage done by budget cuts throughout the previous Bush administration; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT work with its leaders and activists to provide training and education on the importance of OSHA coverage for the safety and well-being of public employees; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT assist our affiliates in the development of legislative proposals to extend OSHA coverage in those states where public employees are not covered by OSHA programs; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT support the final passage of the Protecting America's Workers Act.