AFT - American Federation of Teachers

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About AFT Healthcare

AFT Healthcare—formerly known as the Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals—was created in 1978 when the AFT’s constitution was amended to allow organizing and affiliation of healthcare workers. The division represents more than 112,000 workers, including 84,000 RNs, who practice in a variety of professions and settings. While nearly half of our members are registered nurses, the division also represents medical researchers, physicians, dieticians, psychologists, X-ray technicians, therapists and others. AFT Healthcare is currently the second-largest nurse union in the AFL-CIO.

The majority of AFT Healthcare members work in hospitals, although they also work in nursing homes, schools, home health agencies, laboratories, blood banks and clinics. Nearly half of AFT Healthcare’s members work in the private sector, so their organizing and collective bargaining activities are governed by the National Labor Relations Act instead of state or local laws, making passage of the Employee Free Choice Act especially relevant to our division.>

AFT Healthcare is made up of 95 locals in 17 states and one territory (Guam). The majority of members are in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Oregon, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Structural relationships at the state level are varied. In two states, healthcare members have a separate state federation (N.J., Wis.), while in others the healthcare division is integrated into multi-constituency state federations and, in some instances—because employers cross state lines—into regional councils.>

AFT Healthcare has a strong commitment to organizing new members, although the healthcare industry is a notoriously difficult area in which to organize. Historically, we have won more than 70 percent of our representation elections.

The representation of nurses and health professionals is splintered among more than fifteen national unions. AFT Healthcare has been central in the creation of several multi-union initiatives including, most recently, a working group on formulating a union response to health information technology. Other issues currently of importance to our members including advocating for safe staffing levels in hospitals in order to protect the quality of patient care, stopping the growing problem of workplace violence, advocating for safe lifting programs to prevent workplace injuries, ensuring that school children have enough nurses to adequately care for their needs and advocating against changes in state nurse practice acts that would require the "training" of non-professionals to administer potentially dangerous medications in the schools.

Every year, AFT Healthcare hosts a national professional issues conference where members learn about and discuss issues that affect healthcare workers throughout the country. We also hold special conferences for new leaders, for local presidents and for school health leaders and activists. AFT Healthcare is one of only a few AFL-CIO unions accredited as a provider of continuing education in nursing by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation.

AFT Healthcare’s 13-member program and policy council provides direction to the division on healthcare workforce and health policy issues as well as assistance in development of divisional priorities and program activities. Standing committees of the PPC include the school nurse subcommittee and the organizing subcommittee.

The division’s membership includes approximately 15,000 school nurses—or one in every three school nurses in the country. Activities on behalf of the school nurse constituency are directed by the school nurse subcommittee. Those activities include the Every Child Needs a School Nurse campaign, an annual leadership conference for school nurse activists as well as advocacy and research on school nurse and school health issues.

Mary Lehman MacDonald, director, AFT Healthcare; mmacdona@aft.org.