AFT Resolution


WHEREAS, U.S. household debt has climbed to its highest level ever, exceeding previous 2008 highs, and now stands at a record $13.15 trillion; and

WHEREAS, for decades, wages have been stagnant and the cost of living has been rising, especially the cost of healthcare, leading Americans to rely on debt to make ends meet; and

WHEREAS, there are growing warning signs that Americans are struggling under the weight of increasing debt, including increases in credit card default rates and a rise in personal loans to pay for normal household expenses; and

WHEREAS, medical debt is the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States; and

WHEREAS, rising debt levels mean consumers are spending more of their income on debt payments rather than contributing to their local and state economies; and

WHEREAS, future interest rate hikes will increase Americans’ debt burden and monthly payments and will exacerbate financial distress; and

WHEREAS, Wall Street played a major role in creating the debt crisis by fueling income inequality and failing to pay its fair share in taxes, which has defunded federal and state budgets; and

WHEREAS, Wall Street posted record profits in the years following the Great Recession, while working Americans have seen costs of housing, healthcare, higher education and essential consumer goods increase dramatically; and

WHEREAS, economic analysts have expressed concern that the rising levels of debt may pose a “systemic” risk to the economy, and economic downturns, among other things, affect the performance of pensions funds, upon which many American Federation of Teachers members rely as a key element of their retirement security; and

WHEREAS, nearly all AFT members—whether teachers and school staff, nurses, health professionals, early childhood educators, public employees, or college and university faculty (including graduate employees)—finance their professional education by taking out student loans; and

WHEREAS, student debt is the second-largest and fastest-growing source of personal debt after home mortgages; and

WHEREAS, student debt has increased from 13 percent to 37 percent of personal debt over the past decade, during a period of economic growth; and

WHEREAS, servicing practices by student loan servicers, and in particular Navient, have exacerbated the level of student debt; and

WHEREAS, the adverse economic impact of Navient’s actions on individuals, families and communities jeopardizes the economic security and the possibility of a secure retirement for American workers, especially young workers; and

WHEREAS, given the Trump administration’s actions to weaken the mandate of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to advocate for borrowers and protect them from predatory lending and servicing practices for consumer debt, strong corporate governance oversight by shareholders is now more important than ever; and

WHEREAS, it is in the best interest of our members, their families and communities, borrowers, and our pension funds to hold predatory financial actors, such as Navient, and other corporations that profit from the debt crisis, accountable:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers will lead a national campaign to raise the issue of the nation’s debt crisis, exposing the role of Wall Street in fueling and profiting from the crisis at the expense of working people, retirees, pension funds and the nation’s economy; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT condemns the predatory actions of all loan servicers and consumer lenders whose predatory practices put families, communities, pension funds and the economy at risk; and

RESOLVED, that AFT will work with the AFT pension trustee council and other trustees, within their roles as fiduciaries and investors, to determine the risk posed to our pension funds by corporations and asset managers involved in predatory finance practices, and to raise concerns as investors and shareholders when appropriate; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will engage its members through a survey to discover how consumer debt is affecting our members; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will partner with its state and local affiliates to develop a suite of tools, including student and medical debt clinics to educate members about issues related to various types of consumer debt, including medical and credit card debt.



Please note that a newer resolution, or portion of a resolution, may have superseded an earlier resolution on the same subject. As a result, with the exception of resolutions adopted at our most recent AFT convention, resolutions do not necessarily reflect current AFT policies.