AFT Nurses and Health Professionals—first known as the Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals and later as AFT Healthcare—was created in 1978 when the AFT constitution was amended to allow organizing and affiliation of healthcare workers. The division represents more than 112,000 health professionals who practice in a variety of disciplines and settings. Although more than half of our members are registered nurses, the division also represents medical researchers, physicians, dietitians, psychologists, X-ray technicians, therapists and others. AFT Nurses and Health Professionals is the second-largest nurses union in the AFL-CIO.
The majority of AFT Nurses and Health Professionals members work in hospitals, although they also work in nursing homes, home health agencies, laboratories, blood banks and clinics. The division’s membership also includes approximately 15,000 school nurses. Nearly half of AFT Nurses and Health Professionals 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.
AFT Nurses and Health Professionals members are represented by locals across the nation and also in one territory (Guam), with a high concentration of members in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Oregon, Ohio and Washington state. Structural relationships at the state level are varied. In two states (New Jersey and Wisconsin), healthcare members have a separate state federation, while in others the healthcare division is integrated into multiconstituency state federations; in some instances, locals are integrated into regional councils.
AFT Nurses and Health Professionals 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 15 national unions. The AFT has been central in the creation of several multi-union initiatives including, most recently, a working group formulating a union response to violence in the healthcare workplace.
AFT Nurses and Health Professionals is very focused on partnerships with patient advocacy organizations, community groups and other stakeholders to create a national education and advocacy campaign that focuses on reshaping the U.S. healthcare system in a way that serves the needs of our communities, and that truly puts patients at the center of care. Principles of transparency, accountability and quality are all central to this work.
Other issues of import to our members include safe staffing levels in all care settings to protect the quality of patient care, scope of practice and professional licensure requirements, safe-lifting programs to prevent workplace injuries, ensuring an adequate number of school nurses to care for the needs of schoolchildren, 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 Nurses and Health Professionals 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, local presidents and school health leaders and activists. AFT Nurses and Health Professionals 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 Nurses and Health Professionals’13-member program and policy council, as well as its 17-member registered nurses program and policy council, help guide the division’s work on healthcare workforce and policy issues, and also assist in development of divisional priorities and program activities.
Fore more information, contact Jeanne Otersen, acting director of AFT Nurses and Health Professionals, firstname.lastname@example.org.