AFT Resolution


WHEREAS, an unprecedented drug abuse and opioid epidemic is ravaging communities across the United States, with an estimated 64,000 people dying each year from overdoses; and

WHEREAS, millions of patients suffering from addiction, which should be treated as a disease, are unable to access the care they need due to extreme shortages of providers, beds, funding and treatment options—a calamity that will be intensified if the Trump administration continues to cut healthcare funding and threaten the stability of the Affordable Care Act; and

WHEREAS, opioids play a vital role in the treatment of pain for many patients, the appropriate prescription of which is a clinical medical decision best left to the medical professional and not an insurance company; and

WHEREAS, bad actors in the pharmaceutical industry are generating astonishing profits from addictive prescription drugs, which are marketed as non-addictive by major pharmaceutical companies and distributed by companies that have failed to identify or combat opioid abuse; and

WHEREAS, public employee pension funds, including teacher pension funds, may hold investments in companies that manufacture, market and distribute opioids, as well as in companies providing addiction treatment and in hedge funds that support these companies; and

WHEREAS, communities and employers throughout America lack the resources needed to combat this public health crisis, while the Trump administration is worsening the problem by reviving the failed policies of prior wars on drugs, including mandatory sentencing and criminalization, which adversely affected communities of color, exacerbating racial and economic inequities and diverting resources needed for prevention and treatment, and as a result, AFT members are being called to prevent, diagnose and counteract drug abuse and overdoses in their schools, hospitals and communities without proper resources, training or protection from exposure hazards; and

WHEREAS, some for-profit addiction treatment companies offer inadequate treatment, poor staffing, and lax safety and security for patients and workers:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers will continue the fight for resources to combat the opioid crisis, including the fight against cuts in Medicaid and the fight against repealing the Affordable Care Act; and

RESOLVED, the AFT will collaborate with unions, community and policy organizations, government officials and others to expose and address pharmaceutical companies’ role in the opioid crisis; and

RESOLVED, the AFT will support affiliates in seeking workplace policies and collective bargaining language that provide resources to those working to combat addiction and the opioid crisis through their work, that protect them from exposure to workplace hazards and hazardous drugs, and that strengthen employee assistance programs; and

RESOLVED, the AFT will work with pension fund trustees and staff to review their investments in companies and managers that are facilitating and/or profiting from the opioid crisis, advocate for greater accountability from their companies and managers, and, when appropriate, divest from these entities, as consistent with their fiduciary duty; and

RESOLVED, the AFT will fight to ensure that addressing the opioid crisis in our communities is a top priority, that people with addictions have adequate access to quality, affordable services, and that our members are fully equipped and supported to address the opioid crisis at all intersections with their work; and

RESOLVED, the AFT will oppose polices that re-create the failed war on drugs, and will support public policies that:

  • Focus on prevention and education about the abuse of opioids;
  • Expand and fund treatment options through federal and state funding;
  • Encourage collaboration between public safety officials, education institutions and healthcare institutions;
  • Establish standards for appropriate prescribing guidelines and other timely protocols that ensure therapeutic outcomes for drug prevention programs;
  • Expand the scope of practice for advanced practice registered nurses to fill the need for providers;
  • Ensure timely access to mental health interventions and enforce mental health parity laws; and
  • Reduce mass incarceration through criminal justice sentencing reform.

Please note that a newer resolution, or portion of a resolution, may have superseded an earlier resolution on the same subject. As a result, with the exception of resolutions adopted at our most recent AFT convention, resolutions do not necessarily reflect current AFT policies.