The policymaking resolutions were approved unanimously at the convention, where the more than 3,500 delegates also celebrated last year’s affiliation of 34,000 registered nurses from the National Federation of Nurses, helping to push the AFT’s membership over the 1.6 million mark. These nurses work in hospitals in Montana, Ohio, Oregon and Washington state.
AFT President Randi Weingarten said there is a need to reclaim the promise of high-quality healthcare to provide affordable, accessible care for all.
“Let’s make sure we use all tools and tactics available … to fight for affordable, high-quality healthcare and a healthcare system that puts patient care and worker safety above corporate profits,” Weingarten said in her keynote speech to the AFT convention.
The AFT Everyday Hero award for healthcare went to the leaders of the unions at L+M Hospital who fought to keep patient care services in their community hospital rather than outsourced through a strike and an illegal lockout by the administration. Ultimately they successfully negotiated this past winter contracts with strong protections for patients and jobs.
Their landmark collective bargaining agreements also include a first-ever set of core principles adopted by the hospital’s leadership that recognized the contributions of the union. L+M administration also agreed not to retaliate against employees seeking to form new unions and to treat all workers uniting for a voice on the job with respect.
Accepting the award at the convention were Lisa D’Abrosca, president of AFT Local 5049, which represents L+M registered nurses; Stephanie Johnson, president of AFT Local 5051, which represents licensed practical nurses and technicians; and Harry Rodriguez, president of AFT Local 5123, which represents service and support workers.
Among other things, the AFT pledged to support state and federal laws setting minimum standards for the number of patients assigned to registered nurses for each hospital unit and shift, as well as laws to establish nurse staffing committees that would research, establish and review factors appropriate for increasing nurse staffing levels above the minimum levels required by law.
Decades of research have established the relationship between inadequate nurse staffing and: unexpected hospital deaths or injuries, medical errors, complications and infections, re-admissions, patient satisfaction, and burnout and turnover, the safe-staffing resolution said.
Click here for the Safe Staffing CT campaign’s website, which is seeking state-level solutions to improve patient and healthcare worker safety.
The patients-before-profits resolution noted that hospital executives’ compensation increases at double-digit rates while nurses are being laid off, and it highlighted 2013 data that showed that CEO compensation was not tied to higher quality, better outcomes or other factors that would benefit patients and communities.
This resolution said the union will join with patient advocates, community groups and other providers to create a national education and advocacy campaign to focus on reshaping the United States healthcare system “to serve the needs of communities and to truly put patients first.” The AFT will also advocate for transparency in the healthcare industry by calling for all financial information and quality indicators to be publicly available.
to read the resolution calling for a healthcare system that puts patient care above profits.
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Follow AFT President Randi Weingarten on Twitter at @RWeingarten.