AFT Resolution


WHEREAS, West Africa's Ebola outbreak is one of the deadliest public health challenges of modern times; its wide-spreading course and exponential growth are unprecedented and running ahead of countries' ability to contain it; the United Nations has expressed in a resolution "that the unprecedented extent of the Ebola outbreak in Africa constitutes a threat to international peace and security"; if not contained, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands may soon be infected by this scourge, which carries a critically high mortality rate; entire healthcare systems are on the verge of collapse because of this horrific disease, threatening economic and social chaos that would place the people of West Africa at risk of unspeakable devastation; and

WHEREAS, Public Services International has raised the alarm about the dangers faced by frontline healthcare workers who are courageously battling to mitigate the spread of the virus and treat those who have become infected; of those who have died, an estimated 10 percent have been healthcare workers, many of whom died for lack of personal protective equipment and other essential infection control methods, a situation that PSI calls "criminal neglect"; and

WHEREAS, this Ebola outbreak is occurring in countries with already weakened healthcare systems that are facing a shortage of trained medical workers and a deficit of well-equipped clinics, hospitals and laboratories; a long-standing lack of investment in human, financial and material resources, combined with limited experience in dealing with a health emergency of this unprecedented scale, have hampered local governments' ability to respond; and

WHEREAS, international response to this crisis, including from the United States, has been slow to gain momentum since epidemiologists first warned of the growing outbreak in March 2014; over the next six to twelve months, it is estimated that the countries hardest hit will need hundreds of millions of dollars in basic supplies, thousands of highly skilled healthcare workers, and hundreds of logistical specialists of every kind, from transportation to security; and

WHEREAS, despite isolated hospitalized cases, the risk of Ebola exposure in the United States remains low; nevertheless, many healthcare personnel and facilities lack awareness and preparedness for a virus that is not bound by geographic borders:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers expresses solidarity with the healthcare workers, families and communities affected by the Ebola crisis; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will join with national and international nongovernmental organizations to pressure national, pan-national and international government bodies to respond immediately to this international calamity and to be prepared for long-term donor assistance to rebuild infrastructure; and
RESOLVED, that the AFT will educate members who have indicated interest in volunteer relief work, and will actively seek donations from affiliates and members for the AFT Disaster Relief Fund to be used by charitable organizations to purchase essential protective gear, basic medical supplies, cleansers and sanitizing agents; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will work with Public Services International and affiliates to provide healthcare workers in contact with Ebola appropriate education, training, equipment, supplies, and safety and security, and will make a contribution to the PSI Aid Fund and commit beyond the current crisis to support PSI's long-term efforts to strengthen union capacity in West Africa by improving affiliates' ability to negotiate with health ministries for adequate salaries, safer working conditions and better protection for all health professionals; and

RESOLVED, that the president of the AFT will write to the Obama administration to express support for its leadership in responding to the Ebola epidemic and its designation of the crisis as a national security priority; and that the AFT supports the president's plan to put both civilian and military resources to work in rapid in-country response, and urges commitment to a longer-term program, working with the international community and West African partners, to address crucial needs of repairing the healthcare infrastructure; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will demand restoration of the federal budget cuts since 2001 that have significantly weakened the U.S. public health infrastructure and healthcare system and reduced the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's ability to respond adequately to the epidemic in West Africa and to make preparations for responding to Ebola domestically; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT Nurses and Health Professionals division will work with its affiliates, other healthcare sector unions and other organizations to protect healthcare workers in the event of a significant occurrence in the United States; and that the AFT will provide education and training for members and leaders to conduct workplace safety audits, and will have Ebola-related information programs and plans in place, including protocol for the use of protective equipment and infection control procedures to keep healthcare workers and the public safe; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will recommit to its "Reclaiming the Promise of Quality Healthcare for All" resolution adopted earlier this year, as ensuring access to healthcare for all diminishes the risks to the health of entire communities, as exemplified by the threat of Ebola; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will educate all members about Ebola and assist in developing accurate information that could be included in classroom curricula, as deemed appropriate by educators and healthcare professionals.