AFT Resolution

Responding to the Coronavirus Epidemic to Keep Families Healthy, Protect Frontline Providers and Save Our Economy

WHEREAS, the coronavirus, or COVID-19, is a global health and economic pandemic threatening the health and safety and economic well-being of those we represent and those we serve, particularly frontline caregivers and all other essential workers; and

WHEREAS, the American Federation of Teachers’ 1.7 million members provide vital services and care to children, families and communities and are on the frontlines of confronting this global and dangerous epidemic, most particularly our nurses and health professionals who are now treating a surging number of patients; our other frontline essential public employees, doing everything from driving workers to ensuring public safety; and educators and school staff working to ensure their students don’t lose the instructional year or other social services and economic supports, like school meals, that are now part of our public education and higher education safety net; and

WHEREAS, the inadequate response by the federal government—including President Trump’s initial false claims about the virus; his attempts to downplay the risks to public health; his failure to respond with the necessary speed, scope and seriousness; and the lack of testing—has increased the threat to Americans and our economy and has led to widespread fear and confusion; and

WHEREAS, in China and South Korea, widespread testing to guide the appropriate response seems to have stemmed the spread of COVID-19, yet Americans still do not have adequate access to testing; and

WHEREAS, a recent report by the Imperial College London COVID-19 Response Team states that widespread social distancing, closings and other suppression tactics may be required for more than a year until a vaccine becomes available, and U.S. deaths could amount to between 200,000 to more than 2 million based on the governments response; and

WHEREAS, there is a dire lack of personal protective equipment that would help keep our nurses, respiratory therapists and other health professionals safe, which, as our AFT healthcare members report, is not just part of the larger lack of pandemic preparedness planning in our healthcare system, but also showing more and more the brokenness of our current market-based healthcare system:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers’ response to the COVID-19 global pandemic is focused on three priorities:

  • The health and safety of our members, communities and students;
  • The health and safety of first responders, nurses and healthcare workers who are on the frontlines; and
  • Helping our members, their families and workers across America through the short-term and long-term effects of an unprecedented economic crisis. This started with the first two recovery packages already passed by Congress and continues with the third package being worked on. The total initial recovery should be at least $1.5 trillion with the focus on what workers need to care for their families; and

RESOLVED, that this work will build on the AFT response to COVID-19 that began in January with a focus on what our members and communities needed to be prepared and take the necessary precautions, and on calling on the federal government to act. The AFT, with the Association of Flight Attendants, saw this coming as early as February and called on the Trump administration to do a multilevel response, which it refused to do until Wall Street started to crumble; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT and its affiliates will continue to:

1.    Create resources and information to ensure that our members and communities have as clear and honest a picture of the crisis and what to do to help people stay healthy and safe;

2.    Advocate for the protective personal equipment that nurses and frontline providers need, which the federal government has failed to provide;

3.    Work to ensure students receive essential services and meals when schools and colleges are closed and help provide appropriate instructional supports, as it is clearer and clearer many schools and colleges will close for the balance of the year, including advocating the waiving of standardized testing and proposing plans like term papers and capstone projects in its place. Remote learning may be necessary now, but it is clear that it is simply an emergency measure and schools and colleges must once again be a center of democracy, learning and social service when this emergency ends;

4.    Do everything we can to advocate for the economic safety net needed to help families and workers, including the work to have treatment and testing covered in the first two stimulus plans, unemployment insurance, sick leave and the stimulus that will be needed for states, localities, and workers and families as this crisis continues. The very things that are needed to help people stay healthy, including social distancing and stay in place orders, are the very things that will increasingly bring our economy to a standstill. The packages Congress is working on as this resolution is being considered must include supports for workers, not simply for corporations; and

5.    Engage at all levels of government and with employers and other unions around the world to ensure that we have informed and empowered leaders and members leading efforts to confront this crisis, and

RESOLVED, that the AFT calls for the U.S. Department of Justice and state justice departments to investigate and prosecute those in power who have taken this crisis and attempted to profit from it; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT opposes the U.S. Department of Justice’s call to suspend certain constitutional rights, which are the basis for a free and democratic society and should never be suspended, regardless of any national crisis; and

RESOLVED, that this epidemic has further exposed the deep wealth, education, health and other inequities in our society, which the AFT has long fought to address and requires a New Deal for the 21st century that enables all Americans to have the fundamental rights and economic wherewithal that they need.

(2020)

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.