AFT Resolution


WHEREAS, drug overdose deaths have reached record highs, fueled in large part by the abuse of narcotic painkillers and heroin. The United States has fewer than 5 percent of the world’s population, yet consumes 80 percent of the global opioid supply; healthcare providers last year wrote more than 300 million painkiller prescriptions, enough to give every adult in the United States his or her own bottle of pills; and

WHEREAS, the opioid epidemic has touched nearly every American, but the United States is not alone in suffering from this calamity. Thanks to a combination of ruthless marketing by the pharmaceutical industry and easy access to prescribing doctors, many people in the developed world are now witness to the devastation that befalls friends, family members and communities as a result of opioid abuse. Consider:

  • Europe: According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the highest levels of prescription opioid abuse in Europe have been reported from Northern Ireland. Denmark, Estonia, Finland and Germany also have substantial proportions of addicts. In terms of mortality rates, Ukraine, Iceland, Ireland and Luxembourg experience the highest levels in Europe, with more than 100 drug-related deaths per 1 million adults;
  • Canada: Amid a growing opioid crisis of its own, Canada has authorized the opening of supervised consumption sites and partnered with China to curb fentanyl flows into the country, but the health ministry says “huge gaps” remain in the government’s ability to track and respond to the problem. British Columbia and Alberta, two of Canada’s most populous provinces, have declared a public health emergency, increasing funding for addiction treatment and access to naloxone; and
  • Australia: The country has seen a sharp increase in the use of prescription opioids, which are now the cause of more than two-thirds of drug deaths. As part of its “very broad-brush approach,” the health ministry expects to launch a nationwide electronic system to monitor opioid prescriptions; and

WHEREAS, opioid addiction, worldwide, tears at the core of our communities—draining our healthcare resources, affecting our schools and workplaces, and targeting our vulnerable youth; and

WHEREAS, the opioid crisis has spread so broadly and penetrated so deeply that it demands international solutions with contributions from all levels of government, along with law enforcement, educators, healthcare providers, social services, pharmaceutical companies and community partners:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers will urge Public Services International’s Health and Social Services Task Force to be a forceful advocate at the International Labor Organization and the World Health Organization for drawing from best practices worldwide to create guidelines—widely publicized and distributed—for integrating innovative solutions to this alarming public health crisis, including defining standards for treatment, eliminating barriers to care and holding the pharmaceutical industry accountable; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will work with PSI in its “People over Profit” campaign to expose the profit margins that multinational pharmaceutical companies derive as a result of the opioid epidemic.