Conservative Group Obtains Insider Emails Proving CDC Consulted with Teachers Union Before School Guidance


If there’s anything parents of public school students should take away from the year of the great pandemic, it’s that teachers unions are out for only themselves — and Democrats are their enablers.

Need evidence? Look no further than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Feb. 12 guidelines for school reopening and emails between members of President Joe Biden’s administration and unions that preceded it.

The emails, reported by the New York Post, show several instances where language from the unions seeped directly into a document that fell well short of recommending a full re-opening of American classrooms.

The Post’s report Saturday singled out the American Federation of Teachers specifically, noting that “[t]he powerful teachers union’s full-court press preceded the [CDC’s] putting the brakes on a full re-opening of in-person classrooms, emails between top CDC, AFT and White House officials show.”

The conservative watchdog group Americans for Public Trust obtained the emails between CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, her advisers, the AFT and White House officials via a Freedom of Information Act request. They show what the Post described as “a flurry of activity … in the days before the highly-anticipated Feb. 12 announcement on school-reopening guidelines.”

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Walensky insisted when the guidelines were released that no pressure was brought to bear on the CDC by outside groups: “I can assure you that this is free from political meddling,” she said.

The emails with the AFT don’t necessarily disprove that, but they don’t lend credibility to that statement, either, particularly since the AFT failed to acknowledge its behind-the-scenes input.

In a Feb. 1 email — in which the AFT was described as the CDC’s “thought partner,” according to the Post — AFT senior director for health issues Kelly Trautner thanked administration officials “for Friday’s rich discussion about forthcoming CDC guidance and for your openness to the suggestions made by our president, Randi Weingarten, and the AFT.”

If the name Randi Weingarten is familiar to you, it’s likely because the AFT president is one of the Democrats’ top union-based boosters and a member of the Democratic National Committee. According to a New York Times report from November, she was considered a candidate to head Biden’s Department of Education.

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“We were able to review a copy of the draft guidance document over the weekend and were able to provide some initial feedback to several staff this morning about possible ways to strengthen the document,” Trautner’s email continued, according to the Post. “We believe our experiences on the ground can inform and enrich thinking around what is practicable and prudent in future guidance documents.”

While Walensky wasn’t on the email chain from Feb. 1, it was forwarded to her by White House coronavirus testing coordinator Carole Johnson, the Post reported. There was also involvement from 1600 Pennsylvania, as the email chain included White House associate director of public engagement Will McIntee, according to the Post.

An email from Trautner to Walensky, meanwhile, had the AFT official declaring she was “immensely grateful for your genuine desire to earn our confidence and your commitment to partnership,” according to the Post. Furthermore, the emails show there was a slated Feb. 7 call between Walensky and Weingarten, the Post reported.

The AFT ended up praising the final guidance from the CDC:

“Today, the CDC met fear of the pandemic with facts and evidence,” Weingarten said in a Feb. 12 statement. The guidance was seen as overly cautious by many, however, especially after White House press secretary Jen Psaki made a remark that the government would count a school as open for in-person learning even if it was only open one day a week. (Biden himself would later walk these remarks back.)

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However, it’s unsurprising that the AFT would praise the guidance, considering the Post noted some of it was lifted word-for-word from the union.

“In at least two instances, language ‘suggestions’ offered by the union were adopted nearly verbatim into the final text of the CDC document,” the Post reported.

“With the CDC preparing to write that schools could provide in-person instruction regardless of community spread of the virus, Trautner argued for the inclusion of a line reading ‘In the event of high community-transmission results from a new variant of SARS-CoV-2, a new update of these guidelines may be necessary.’ That language appeared on page 22 of the final CDC guidance.

“The AFT also demanded special remote work concessions for teachers ‘who have documented high-risk conditions or who are at increased risk for … COVID-19,’ and that similar arrangements should extend to ‘staff who have a household member’ with similar risks. A lengthy provision for that made it into the text of the final guidance.”

The fact that the AFT could issue an eight-paragraph statement praising a Biden administration policy without once mentioning its own role in that policy’s formation speaks volumes about the depths of deception Democrat-backing union leaders will deploy when dealing with the American public.

According to the Post, University of California, San Francisco, medical professor Dr. Monica Gandhi said the emails were “very, very troubling.”

“What seems strange to me here is there would be this very intimate back and forth including phone calls where this political group gets to help formulate scientific guidance for our major public health organization in the United State,” she told the newspaper. “This is not how science-based guidelines should work or be put together.”

The CDC and AFT disagreed.

“As part of long-standing best practices, CDC has traditionally engaged with organizations and groups that are impacted by guidance and recommendations issued by the agency,” said Jason McDonald, a spokesman for Walensky, according to the Post.

“We do so to ensure our recommendations are feasible to implement and they adequately address the safety and wellbeing of individuals the guidance is aimed to protect. These informative and helpful interactions often result in beneficial feedback that we consider in our final revisions to ensure clarity and usability.”

“The AFT represents 1.7 million educators, healthcare professionals and public employees who spent the last 14 months serving on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. So naturally, we have been in regular touch with the agencies setting policy that affect their work and lives, including the CDC,” AFT spokeswoman Oriana Korin told the Post.

Yes, but those agencies should also come to independent decisions without considering unions to be “thought partners.”

At most, they ought to be consulted in the process, the same way other stakeholders are. The fact there was apparently verbatim language from the AFT in the final guidance issued by the CDC indicates an unhealthy symbiotic relationship between the two parties, one which benefits the unions and Democrat politicians at the expense of schoolchildren.

Teachers unions have consistently opposed the restart of in-person learning, despite their protestations to the contrary. Scientists and doctors have said the evidence is clear and it points toward kids in classrooms.

If the White House is bouncing emails back-and-forth with one of America’s most powerful teachers unions and the result is overcautious CDC guidance that falls well short of saying the country’s students need to be back in the classrooms, there are inferences one can make from that, and they don’t involve that guidance being “free from political meddling.”

In fact, it’s just the opposite.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture