A coalition of 19 organizations representing professional employees today announced the creation of Professionals for the Public Interest: Associations and Unions Defending Professional Integrity (PftPI) to defend the ability of professionals to do their jobs right, despite outside pressures from bosses, politicians and others.
According to the AFL-CIO Department for Public Employees (DPE), polling over many years has shown that for professionals, the ability to do the job right is a priority as important as, or more important than, compensation and benefits. Professionals choose what they want to do, invest in extensive education and training and value the latitude to meet professional standards.
Yet professionals face extensive financial and political pressures that endanger their ability to turn out quality work and, as a result, endanger the public they serve, DPE says. For example, scientists found that the Bush administration regularly twisted the results of their research to fit a political agenda. Nurses are engaged in ongoing struggles to provide better service by safe staffing, and teachers seek to reduce class sizes.
DPE President Paul Almeida told a Washington, D.C., press conference today:
[PftPI] represents an unprecedented and potentially historic alignment of professional associations and unions. Its goal is nothing less than allowing professionals to do their work on the basis of expertise, experience and high standards, with transparency and trust. Achieving that goal could mean a better quality of life for all of us.
The group also launched its new website, www.pftpi.org. At the site, professional workers can tell their stories and share ideas about better ways to defend their integrity. You also can learn more about disputes over professional integrity in the news and codes of ethics and rules of professional integrity that professional organizations have adopted.
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney hailed the formation of the group:
For the people whom professionals serve, the ability to do the job right determines the quality of our lives and future: the safety of the air we breathe and the water we drink, the breadth of the education our children receive, our free access to the information that fuels a democracy, and the reliability of our medical care.
Glenn Ruskin, director of public affairs for the American Chemical Society, pointed to President Obama’s March 9 memo on scientific integrity in the federal government as a unique opportunity for the new organization to play a role in supporting unbiased use of scientific information.
AFT President Randi Weingarten says the group will push for elected officials to consult with practicing professionals before making new policies:
Whether it’s education reform, health care reform or government reform, it will fail if you ignore the professionals who do the work. What you get is top-down ivory tower policies that don’t work.
The PftPI is not a union but it will give an additional voice to nurses who are both patient advocates and union members, said United American Nurses (UAN) President Ann Converso.
Nurses are the frontline of care in hospitals. Our job is to protect patients and the union protects our freedom to do the job.
Mary Ghikas, senior associate executive director of the American Library Association, said the public has a stake in making sure professionals are allowed to do their jobs. She cited how librarians have been in the middle of many struggles to provide information to the public, including immigrants, teens and the homeless. They also fought to protect library records from unauthorized searches.
There is a public cost in turning away from the concept of professional integrity exercised in the public interest. From the perspective of librarianship, that cost may be in narrowing public discourse….in the minds that are not challenged, in new works that are not created.
In a written statement, Thomas Lee, president of the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM), said:
In today’s difficult economic climate…professional standards and practices are sometimes compromised. The need for enforcement of a strong code of ethics and standards of professional integrity is even more necessary today. Our success is imperative and vital…[AFM is] confident the work of this coalition will bear rich results, best serving the interests of our professional memberships and the public.