One of the country’s largest teacher unions is empowering its members to strike if their schools plan to open without taking proper safety measures in the midst of a global pandemic.
The American Federation of Teachers, representing 1.7 million school workers, issued a resolution on Tuesday saying it will support all local departments that decide to strike to renew plans.
By providing a blessing, the union also offers local chapters access to its financial and legal resources as they return to class. Union officials said they would provide legal support, liaison and staff to local divisions voting for the strike.
Although the measure says strikes should only be seen as a “last resort”;, it lists the conditions an organization wants to meet for schools to resume operations. It says buildings should only be opened in places where the number of viruses is lower, and only if schools need masks, upgrade ventilation systems and make changes to the space for students.
By announcing the measure, the union president blew up President Donald Trump to force schools to rebuild even as the virus continues to spread. Randi Weingarten called Trump’s response “chaotic and catastrophic,” saying it feared teachers.
“We will fight in all aspects for the safety of our students and their teachers,” Weingarten said. “But if the authorities do not protect the safety and health of those we represent and those we serve, as our executive council voted last week, there is nothing on the table.”
Union leaders approved the resolution on Friday, but announced it at a group convention on Tuesday, which is being held online during the pandemic.
The country’s largest teachers’ union, the National Education Association, said individually that its members would do “everything they need” to protect students.
“No one wants students to be seen in the classroom more than educators, but when it comes to their safety, we are not prepared to take any chances off the table,” the group’s president, Lily Eskelsen García, said in a statement.
For weeks, Trump pressed for a complete overhaul of the nation’s schools. He acknowledged last week that some schools may have to delay the return of personal instructions, but he is still asking Congress not to allow the use of virus help in schools that are not renewing in the future.
Some of the nation’s largest public school districts are starting their school year online, including in Los Angeles, Atlanta and Houston.
The Chicago Teachers Union, which faced the city over a school renewal plan, said Tuesday it does not rule out stopping work.
“It is long overdue for educators in our nation to come together and fight collectively for the common good – in an effort to correct the social and economic inequalities that are the cause of this insidious virus,” said Stacy, vice president of the union. Davis Gates, the report said.
Davis Gates said any security strike would include broader demands to support direct workers, provide broadband access to every student, provide universal health care, and make a “strong commitment by government officials to protect the lives of blacks and brown people, who are disproportionately burdened with death and disease. from COVID-19 ’.
Massachusetts state nurses, represented by the Boston Teachers Union, plan to sit at City Hall on Wednesday over the city’s renewal plan. Nurses are urging schools to carry out rapid tests to detect the coronavirus disease COVID-19. They also want, among other things, more protection measures for nurses and teachers and an assessment of air quality in school buildings.
In Ohio’s largest district, about 2,700 Columbia school teachers had previously signed a letter urging leaders to begin an online term in the fall, saying the union said the contribution was “too high for experiments.”
On Tuesday, they got the wish as the district announced that this year would start with virtual learning for all preschool children up to 12th grade.
For other districts planning to renovate, federal security requirements may be difficult to meet. The union says schools should only be opened in places where the incidence of coronavirus (COVID-19) disease is less than 5% and the prevalence is less than 1%. It is also said that local authorities must plan to close schools if the number of cases increases.
Along with the mask requirements, the union is also urging schools to keep people within 6 feet to keep buildings and buses clean, and teachers to accommodate teachers at higher risk of health problems if they sign a COVID-19 contract.
Many schools will need more funds to open safely, the union said. The average school is estimated to need at least $ 1.2 million, which is $ 116 billion nationwide. The resolution states that Trump and Senate Republicans “have failed to negotiate and pass a new incentive bill to provide the resources needed to modernize our schools.”
The latest White House and Senate Republican proposal provides $ 105 billion for schools and colleges, though part of the money goes only to schools that open to private classes. May. The Democrat-led house included $ 100 billion for schools – none of which was limited to those that run classes on the spot – but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said more money was needed.
In his speech, Weingarten said teachers want schools to reopen. Children need personalized education, she said, adding that distance learning “doesn’t replace it.” But she said teachers need to know they will be safe.
Before Trump began pressuring schools to reopen, she said, a union survey found it would be convenient for its members to return if appropriate safeguards were put in place.
“Now they’re scared and angry,” she said. “Many are retiring, retiring or writing their wills.”
Along with the strikes, the union said it would fight unsafe plans to update plans through lawsuits and job grievances. The Union’s Florida branch filed a lawsuit last week in an attempt to stop the state’s plan to renovate schools, which the lawsuit called “reckless and unsafe.”
Associate Press writer Kantele Franko Columbus (Ohio) contributed to this report.