AFT Part of Coalition To Defend Professional Integrity

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The AFT joined 18 other organizations on May 20 in launching Professionals for the Public Interest (PftPI), a coalition of unions and professional associations aiming to shield the integrity of their work against outside pressures.

The new group, whose members represent professionals in science, engineering, health, the arts and human services, takes its cue from President Obama's March 9 memo on scientific integrity. PftPI has broadened the scope to include professional integrity across many fields and affecting workplace decisions that have a range of consequences, from how much a child learns in school to whether patients survive a hospital stay.

PftPI defines professional integrity as encompassing professional standards, knowledge and the common good. Workers' integrity is compromised when external policymakers ignore the workers' professional judgment and implement a decision that compromises public welfare. For example, patient satisfaction plummeted almost 20 percent at a hospital in Kalamazoo, Mich., after the number of patients per nurse was dramatically increased.

PftPI hopes to educate the nation about the importance of weighing professional expertise when making decisions that affect everyone.

"The simple fact is that the people who do the work care more than anybody else, know more than anybody else, and can do more than anybody else about improving public services," said AFT president Randi Weingarten during a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. "When professionals are left out of policymaking," she added, "what we get is top-down, ivory-tower policies that don't work. Worse, what we get is a stifling of the thought process and the freedom to speak."

The coalition's goals, Weingarten said, are to uphold the highest standards of personal conduct, professional practice and service to the community.

The coalition is being spearheaded by the AFL-CIO's Department of Professional Employees. In addition to the AFT, charter members include the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Chemical Society, American Library Association, American Public Health Association and National Association for the Education of Young Children.

As its first project, PftPI is kicking off an "Integrity at Work" contest, which seeks compelling stories and ideas about defending your professional integrity on behalf of the public good. For details, go to the coalition's Web site. The contest deadline is July 31, and finalists will be chosen by Labor Day.

May 21, 2009