AFT Sets a Bold, Progressive Agenda
At the AFT virtual convention in July, delegates passed bold resolutions to confront the crises our country is facing in healthcare and the economy and its long overdue reckoning with racism. To read the full set of resolutions, visit here.
Reimagining Our Society
The sweeping “Reimagining Our Society and Rewriting the Rules to Enable Opportunity and Justice for All” resolution provides a broad framework for the transformative change we need to fight for. The resolution outlines 15 principles to remake our society for the better, including access to good jobs protected by collective bargaining rights, a basic safety net, a robust public health infrastructure, and the free exercise of our democratic rights. It declares that “healthcare is a basic human right.... Our healthcare system must deliver high-quality care from cradle to grave, based on the needs of every community and not the profits of corporations.”
Healthcare as a Public Good
In our current healthcare system, the profit motive hamstrings healthcare providers and harms patients; it ignores the social, racial, economic, and environmental factors that contribute to health and perpetuates disparities in health outcomes. It also drives up income inequality and allows more than 100 million uninsured or underinsured people to go without adequate care. The pandemic has further strained the system—exacerbated by the Trump administration’s chaotic and inept response. “A Healthcare System That Works for All by 2025” seeks to address these problems, calling for universal coverage and a transition to a system “driven by high-value, universal access; sustainable cost; accountability for outcomes; and choice.” It requires the AFT to focus its efforts on the structural flaws that make our healthcare system so inequitable, including fighting for healthcare professionals to have a say in the reshaping of the workforce.
Combating Infectious Diseases
Much of the convention debate touched on the challenges of dealing with COVID-19, but “Infectious Disease Emergency Preparedness Is Essential for Healthcare” looks beyond the present moment to the bigger picture. In addition to addressing federal protocols for COVID-19, it calls on the AFT to pressure “the federal government, states and employers to develop regulations and systems to prevent this massive failure to protect healthcare workers and the public at large from an infectious disease or other public health emergency from ever happening again.”
Focusing on the Social Determinants of Health
Delegates also passed several resolutions aimed at combating injustices that affect individual and community health and well-being. One of the biggest is “In Support of a Green New Deal,” which commits the AFT to fighting for reduced greenhouse gas emissions, supporting state and local renewable energy plans, helping workers transition to green jobs, and more, funded by a progressive tax on the rich and reduction in defense spending (except for veterans’ benefits). The resolution calls for “prioritizing projects, union career opportunities and investments in working-class communities, low-income communities, and communities of color, which, historically, have been disproportionately impacted by pollution, high unemployment, poverty and environmental injustice.”
In addition, following the AFT executive council’s June resolution “Confronting Racism and in Support of Black Lives,” which makes 19 commitments to combat structural racism and state violence against Black people, delegates approved “Enough,” a resolution that condemns police brutality and requires the AFT to push for a series of police reforms, including demilitarization, increased accountability, and the expansion of first responders to include mental health professionals, social workers, public health officials, and related experts. It also requires the AFT to do its own anti-racist work by mentoring members of color for leadership, providing anti-racist training, and holding fellow unions, particularly law enforcement unions and the AFL-CIO, accountable for similar changes.
Delegates also passed a resolution to protect a key determinant of health—access to employment—for transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming workers. While the Supreme Court ruled in June that they are protected from firing because of gender or sexual orientation, these workers still face discrimination. “Support for Transgender, Nonbinary and Gender Nonconforming Workers” requires the AFT to collaborate with transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming communities to collect information on existing protections and needs related to the workplace, housing, and everyday life, and to develop a set of best practices for supporting and advocating for these workers, to be shared with locals.