Defending Our Priorities
More than 3,000 delegates attended the July 2022 AFT convention and passed dozens of resolutions on a range of issues aimed at supporting healthcare workers, defending our democracy, fighting for equitable and safe communities, tackling the student debt crisis, and creating the working conditions our members and communities need to thrive.
Addressing Challenges for Healthcare Professionals
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound physical, mental, and emotional impact on the nation’s healthcare workforce and has exacerbated challenges in staffing and working conditions that must be addressed. Three resolutions from the RNs/Healthcare Workers and Healthcare Access/Quality Committee were passed outlining the AFT’s commitment to tackling the staffing crisis; preventing violence and supporting healthcare workers’ mental health; and enhancing professional development, mentoring, and emotional support for nurses.
Protecting Our Democracy and Freedoms
Four resolutions highlight the AFT’s deep concern about the state of democracy in the United States and efforts to sow disinformation, undermine voting rights, and strip citizens’ freedoms. The Political Action/Legislation Committee brought a resolution to support pro-democracy candidates and issues and dedicate resources to voter registration efforts in the 2022 and 2024 elections. Another resolution calls for protecting children by ending the social media optimization that catalyzes the spread of disinformation. The Women’s Rights Committee brought a resolution demanding protection of reproductive freedom and comprehensive reproductive healthcare. And a special order of business called for the condemnation of the Supreme Court’s recent decisions attacking our freedoms and rights.
Condemning Hate and Supporting Human Rights
Five resolutions support the rights of all people and outline the AFT’s opposition to racial and gender bias and discrimination. The Public Services Committee’s resolutions supported legislation and initiatives to hold the federal government accountable for the trauma caused by Indian boarding school policies. The Human Rights and International Relations Committee brought resolutions condemning racially motivated crimes against Asians and Asian Americans, emphasizing the importance of issues affecting the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, and expressing solidarity with the people of Ukraine. And a resolution from the Political Action/Legislation Committee condemned laws that exclude transgender and gender-expansive students from sports and calls for nondiscrimination policies.
Creating the Conditions Workers and Communities Need
Finally, several resolutions were passed to address the working and living conditions of AFT members and their communities. The Organizing and Collective Bargaining Committee brought two resolutions supporting the PRO Act to protect the right to organize and establishing affiliates’ health and safety committees to improve conditions for all workers and the communities they serve. A resolution from the Higher Education Committee focused on making college more accessible and affordable for all, including by canceling student debt.
Resolutions from the Schools and Colleges Support Staff Issues Committee addressed fighting for living wages and increasing workplace safety, and the Public Services Committee’s worker-focused resolutions supported workers in the digital age and workers experiencing homelessness. Four of these resolutions specifically addressed opportunities to fight climate change and increase equity and community health in retirement.
The Political Action/Legislation Committee’s resolution urged workers’ retirement funds to divest from fossil fuels and invest in projects that benefit society and the climate. Resolutions from the Retirement Committee supported legislative efforts to repeal provisions that limit access to Social Security benefits; to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion on pension boards and among pension asset managers; and to identify and develop climate-friendly and green investment opportunities for members’ pension funds.
Read all the new resolutions here; for more on the 2022 convention, including daily summaries, see aft.org/convention.
Building Union Solidarity
This has been an eventful year for union organizing, as healthcare workers from across the country have joined the AFT’s ranks. At our convention in July, AFT President Randi Weingarten and American Association of University Professors President Irene Mulvey finalized an affiliation between the two organizations; the alliance extends AFT benefits and resources to thousands of faculty members and higher education professionals working in teaching hospitals and whose research and teaching are in healthcare-related fields. The last several months have also seen numerous organizing victories, with new bargaining units that include physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, technicians, and other health professionals in Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, and Vermont. Welcome to the AFT!
Exposing the Healthcare Staffing Crisis
A new survey released by the Health Professionals and Allied Employees (HPAE), an AFT affiliate in New Jersey, provides further evidence of the depth and breadth of the healthcare staffing crisis. Of the 512 current or recent bedside nurses in New Jersey surveyed, 72 percent had recently considered leaving the bedside—including a shocking 95 percent of nurses with fewer than five years’ experience—citing staffing levels and stress/burnout as the most pressing reasons. Eighty-three percent of bedside nurses said they earn too little, and more than half described their workplace protections from violence and abuse as inadequate. Unsurprisingly, these stressors affected patient care: 83 percent of nurses said they had been put in situations in which their licenses were put at risk, 77 percent said that the quality of care in hospitals was getting worse, and 75 percent said hospitals were becoming less safe. Nurses overwhelmingly said that better staffing ratios and higher pay would help most with recruitment and retention and asked for stronger support for safe staffing levels from state and federal governments.