AFT: Education, Healthcare, Public Services

AFT Healthcare was created in 1978 when the AFT’s constitution was amended to allow organizing of helathcare workers.  The division represents more that 112,000 workers, including 84,000 registered nurses that create the second-largest nurse union in the AFL-CIO.  The 84,000 nurses included the National Federation of Nurses from Montana, Washington, Oregon, and Ohio.

AFT Healthcare has a strong commitment to organizing new members and MNA is excited to be developing a strategic organizing plan in Montana, for Montana nurses with AFT.  Each year, AFT hose a national professional issues conference where members learn about and discuss issues that affect healthcare workers thourghout the country.  In addition, they hold special conferences for new leaders, for local presidents and activists.  AFT Healthcare is one of only a few AFL-CIO unions accredited as a provider for continuing education in nursing by the ANCC’s Commission on Accreditation.

Recently, your labor staff attended training with AFT to learn up-to-date techinques for wage costing analysis, financial research on our facilites, and the Powering Up organizing model.  AFT’s expertise will be invaluable to the labor staff. – Nurses and Health Professionals

AFT Healthcare Key Issues

Every Child Needs a School Nurse

  • While everyone recognizes schools as education centers and sites for extracurricular activities, there is far less awareness that the vast majority of schools are also healthcare settings. Almost one-third (30%) of children have chronic health issues including diabetes, asthma and hypertension. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one-third of school-aged children are obese or overweight; 13% require prescription medication use lasting three months; and slightly fewer than 10% have asthma. The breadth of the health issues and needs of children in our schools can be mind-boggling. Read more.

Healthcare Staffing

  • No single issue is more critical to the outcome of patients than the number and mix of direct care staff providing hands-on care. While providing sufficient staff has been endlessly debated as too expensive and too difficult to calculate, research is now available that shows us minimum safe staffing levels studied for half a decade in California do have a significant effect on patient outcomes and staff satisfaction, two variables directly linked to the cost of care. Read more.

Healthcare Workforce Shortages

  • For a range of reasons including: insufficient capacity for students; higher-paying job alternatives in other professions; and stressful and risky occupational choices, there are fewer and fewer replacements for today’s healthcare workforce in the pipeline. The result is an aging and overburdened workforce caring for an aging and more critically ill patient population. Read more.

Mandatory Overtime

  • The research has been very clear about the implications of working long hours and insufficient rest between shifts worked. Studies have shown that night shift workers, in particular, have a high incidence of fatigue secondary to sleep deprivation, a phenomenon associated with diminished critical thinking skills and increased errors in medication administration. Read more.

Healthcare Quality and Accreditation

  • With each passing year, increasing scrutiny is being imposed on the range of healthcare facilities to determine the quality of care they provide. While this information is not readily available to most healthcare workers, insurers have the ability to leverage the data as a means of determining accreditation, and subsequently reimbursement. Read more.

Safe Patient Handling

  • An aging patient populations, and a similarly aging healthcare workforce, combine to form a potential for injury as a result of various scenarios including patient falls and provider strains. That problem is exaggerated by an increasingly obese society that has made bariatric lifts, extra-large wheelchairs and specially sized beds a necessity to meet the care needs of today’s patient population. Read more.

H1N1 Virus

  • In June 2009, the World Health Organization declared that a global pandemic of H1N1 was under way, after more than 70 countries reported cases of the virus. Schools and healthcare facilities are the primary locations for prevention programs aimed at stopping the spread of the virus. This website includes information on pandemic flu planning and essential components of a comprehensive Influence Prevention Program. Read more.

Health and Safety in the Workplace

  • Working in healthcare can be hard on your health. Nurses and other health professionals have higher rates of back injury and lower-back pain than construction workers. Needlesticks, bloodborne pathogens, viruses, asthma resulting from bad air quality, violence and stress are also among the most common occupational hazards. AFT Health and Safety provides information and resources to help leaders and members identify hazards and work toward preventing exposure and improving the environment. Read more.

Fight for America’s Future

  • Fight for America’s Future is an AFT campaign that brings all the union’s divisions together in advocating for policies to preserve and create good jobs and protect the vital public services that AFT’s members provide. Read more.

Green Jobs in the Green Economy

  • The AFT has joined the Blue Green Alliance, a coalition of labor unions and environmental groups with big plans to make the nation more prosperous and leave the planet in better shape. With the addition of the AFT’s 1.5 million members this July, the alliance now unites 8 million people in pursuit of good jobs, a clean environment and a green economy. Read more.

For more information on AFT Healthcare, please visit

Healthcare Staffing Crisis
AFT, America’s Fastest-Growing Healthcare Union, Unveils Report Detailing Troubling Healthcare Staffing Crisis

Report Includes Strategies to Improve Nation’s Healthcare Facilities and Concrete Examples of Successful Implementation

WASHINGTON—A groundbreaking new report bringing together data and testimony from frontline healthcare workers details crippling shortages across the healthcare industry, revealing dangerous conditions for patients and healthcare professionals alike, exacerbated by profit-driven corporate leadership in the healthcare field.

According to the report, nurses and other healthcare workers are exhausted, burnt out, anxious and leaving the profession in droves, a trend that began long before the COVID-19 pandemic and can be addressed with a series of key interventions and policy recommendations outlined in the document.

The numbers show that since the beginning of the pandemic, nearly 1 in 5 healthcare workers have quit their jobs. Of healthcare workers who stayed in their jobs, nearly 1 in 3 have considered leaving at one point. And between 2020 and 2021, the total number of registered nurses in the workforce declined for the first time in more than five years. Many described workplaces where they were routinely exposed to increasing levels of workplace violence; patient loads stretched to unprecedented and unsafe levels; and an overall sense of exhaustion, moral injury and distress at the demands of their job—a job they love doing but say they cannot continue without additional support from their employers.

“Healthcare professionals knew long before COVID-19 that working conditions had been deteriorating for years,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Then came the pandemic. For nearly three years, they’ve worked under unprecedented challenges—while for-profit institutions made record profits. Many healthcare workers are emotionally exhausted and heartbroken from trying to care for your patients under impossible conditions. Understaffing is the core problem, which leads to other horrible conditions like crushing workloads, mandatory overtime, extended shifts lasting 12 to 16 hours, constant fatigue, worker injuries and skyrocketing rates of violence against healthcare workers, making hospitals one of the most dangerous places in America to work.”

“But let’s be clear: This is a crisis of the healthcare industry’s own making. The problems driving the ‘great resignation’ are fixable. They stem from a corporate healthcare industrial complex that puts profits over patients.”

Data proves that this is a patient safety crisis. Adding just one additional patient to a nurse’s workload results in a 7 percent increased risk of a patient dying within 30 days of admission and a 48 percent increased risk of a child being readmitted to the hospital within 30 days.

“The consequences of this chronic understaffing can be deadly, but the problem is solvable,” added Weingarten. “It’s on our nation’s healthcare employers to step up and invest in this crucial workforce by making healthcare facilities safer places to work and engaging frontline workers in collaborative decision-making. Healthcare workers must have a voice in the process and be engaged in the day-to-day workings of their facilities, especially where safety is concerned. When the people providing the care are seen, heard and respected, the patients receiving the care do better too.”

The report includes a menu of proven strategies, a road map at every level—national, state, sector and facility—to address this full-blown crisis:

  • Improving recruitment (and diversity in the workforce), with strategies like high school career and technical education programs, apprenticeships and nursing bridge programs.
  • Expanding targeted financial aid and loan repayment programs, including the National Health Service Corps and the Nurse Faculty Loan Program.
  • Enacting federal and state laws mandating safe staffing ratios for the whole care team, putting safe staffing requirements into governmental regulations, and negotiating safe staffing levels in collective bargaining agreements.
  • Banning mandatory overtime through a wide-ranging approach: federal and state legislation, regulation and collective bargaining agreements.
  • Pushing Congress to pass the federal Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act, and working with state legislatures on greater safety protections.
  • Pushing for pandemic protections in federal law, such as an Occupational Safety and Health Administration standard and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services emergency preparedness rule.
  • Advocating for funding and programs to support health professionals’ mental health.
  • Working at the federal and state levels to increase oversight of mergers and acquisitions in the healthcare industry, including the impact on patient care.
  • Making shared governance part of the collective bargaining agreement—like the partnership between Kaiser Permanente and our Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals and other unions.
  • And last but far from least, championing the right of healthcare workers to form unions, and fighting employer union-busting tactics.

“If you’ve had any conversation over the last 24 months with a frontline healthcare worker, you’d hear the deep frustration and anger with their employers and the sheer mental, physical and emotional exhaustion,” said John Brady, AFT Connecticut vice president and co-chair of the AFT RN Program and Policy Council and the Healthcare Program and Policy Council. “I’ve heard countless heartbreaking stories from our members, like one nurse in Connecticut who was assigned to 11 patients at once. This is not only dangerous to healthcare workers, but it leaves the patients they care for exposed to further injury and illness. It’s high time we put patients and our own frontline heroes over profit and demand the safe patient limits they deserve.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic revealed a healthcare system woefully unprepared for crises, exposing chronic understaffing in our nation’s healthcare facilities that existed well before the pandemic,” said Anne Goldman, a United Federation of Teachers vice president and co-chair of the AFT RN Program and Policy Council and the Healthcare Program and Policy Council. “What’s worse, as the report details, is that the long-standing crisis is completely of healthcare employers’ making, and a direct result of their decisions to put revenue ahead of patients and frontline caregivers’ well-being. Our hope is that this report helps frame the national discussion about the staffing crisis and provides a road map to fixing the chronic problem.”

You can find a fact sheet on the Healthcare Staffing Crisis here, and a summary of the report here.

Healthcare Staffing Crisis Fact Sheet