The president of the American Federation of Teachers said that “nothing is off the table” — including a labor strike — when it comes to ensuring its demands are met regarding the reopening of the nation’s schools.
“Just as we have done with our healthcare workers, we will fight on all fronts for the safety of our students and their educators,” Randi Weingarten, president of the nation’s second-largest teachers union, said Tuesday, according to an ATF news release.
“But if the authorities don’t get it right, and they don’t protect the safety and health of those we represent and those we serve, nothing is off the table — not advocacy or protests, negotiations, grievances or lawsuits, or, if necessary as a last resort, safety strikes.”
She also unveiled a resolution passed by the AFT’s executive council that said the organization would back “safety strikes as a last resort” in the event of “unsafe and unsound plans or the faulty implementation of plans” to reopen schools.
The resolution outlined six standards for schools to meet in order to reopen, including effective surveillance of COVID-19 in the area.
The district and schools also must have developed and funded proper safeguards such as maintaining 6 feet apart, face coverings and “well-stocked” hand-washing stations.
The resolution blamed what it called the Trump administration’s “willful denial and lack of national planning” for the virus’ rampage across the United States and specifically called out President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
“Before the virus’ resurgence, and before Trump’s and DeVos’ reckless ‘open or else’ threats, 76 percent of AFT members said they were comfortable returning to school buildings if the proper safeguards were in place,” Weingarten said.
“Now they’re afraid and angry. Many are quitting, retiring or writing their wills. Parents are afraid and angry, too.”
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is expected to discuss the reopening of schools during an AFT town hall meeting with Weingarten on Tuesday evening, the union said on its website.
Last month, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a report in which it said it “strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.”
“The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020,” the pediatricians said. “Lengthy time away from school and associated interruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation.
“This, in turn, places children and adolescents at considerable risk of morbidity and, in some cases, mortality. Beyond the educational impact and social impact of school closures, there has been substantial impact on food security and physical activity for children and families.”
The AFT president’s speech comes while Democrats and Republicans are debating the next coronavirus relief bill.
Republicans in the Senate have proposed allocating $105 billion for states to use to support their schools, The New York Times reported.
House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi has said she will push for over $100 billion in education relief in the next bill.
Weingarten said the funds proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell were “inadequate given the expenses schools will face to reopen safely.”
“It also falls dramatically short by ignoring what schools actually need to reopen safely and, instead, prioritizes the president’s political agenda, tying the funding to in-person instruction and pushing for private school vouchers,” she said.
Weingarten added that the resolution does not give protection to people on the frontlines of the coronavirus fight.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.