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Home » Issues » Comprehensive Workplace Programs Still Needed to Control the Spread of H1N1 and Seasonal Flu Epidemics

Comprehensive Workplace Programs Still Needed to Control the Spread of H1N1 and Seasonal Flu Epidemics

Whereas, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that between April 1, 2009 and April 10, 2010 about 61 million Americans had become infected with the 2009 H1N1 strain of flu, of whom 274,000 had to be hospitalized and about 12,470 have died (Source: www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/estimates_2009_h1n1.htm ); and

Whereas, schools by their public nature put teachers, staff and students at elevated risk of flu exposure; and

Whereas, a large number of those who have died from this flu strain have been children and young adults of school age (5-17 years of age), an unusual target group for strains of flu, which usually affect primarily the sick and elderly; and

Whereas, even though the 2009-2010 H1N1 flu epidemic was not as destructive as had initially been feared, it revealed the lack of preparation for a serious epidemic at many schools, colleges and other workplaces where public employees interact constantly with large numbers of the public:

Resolved, that the AFT call on Department of Education at the federal level, and the corresponding departments at the state level, to develop comprehensive public health programs in all public schools from K through Higher Education and all other appropriate AFT-represented workplaces in their jurisdiction, including the following components:

  • Voluntary vaccination programs as appropriate for teachers, staff and students against novel H1N1 and ordinary seasonal influenza outbreaks,
  • Proper hygiene protection at all workplaces, including adequate maintenance and cleaning of bathrooms and kitchens, provision of hand-washing stations, and hand-washing or sanitizing stations at the entrances to all buildings and large classrooms,
  • Provision of appropriate respirators (such as N95 respirators) for those with high or very high exposure risk, usually health-care and related workers, who come into frequent, close contact with persons known or suspected to have H1N1 flu, and
  • Development of an infectious disease response plan that ensures preparedness for possible future infectious disease emergencies; and be it further

Resolved, that the AFT urge OSHA to consider adoption of an infectious disease standard to be prepared for future flu outbreaks, and that AFT applaud OSHA for using its powers under the agency’s General Duty Clause to enforce its H1N1 exposure guidelines; and be it further

Resolved, that the AFT encourage its members, both those who fit the higher exposure H1N1 guidelines and those who are in other public health risk groups, to be vaccinated against H1N1, and encourage those who are in risk groups for seasonal flu to get their appropriate vaccinations; and be it further

Resolved, that the AFT urge its locals and state federations to negotiate with the appropriate Boards of Education, university administrations and other employer groups for policies on absences and sick leave that do not constitute a disincentive to isolate oneself when ill—the single most important measure for public health is self-isolation by those who are ill. Such policy changes must provide for paid sick
days on a pro-rata basis for temporary, part-time and contingent employees, because many such employees lack even a single day of paid sick leave, and must allow for the accumulation of sick leave.

Passed at the AFT Convention, July 2010.


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Union Week December 5-9, 2022