American Federation of Teachers
Randi Weingarten

AFT says it would support teacher strikes to stop reopening of schools in unsafe conditions

July 28, 2020
The 1.7 million-member teachers union says walkouts would be a last resort to protect the safety of students and staff members.

The American Federation of Teachers says it would support strikes "as a last resort" to combat school reopening plans that put the safety of students and teachers at risk.

The teacher union says it will “use every action and tool available” to fight unsafe school reopening plans—including “supporting local and/or state affiliate safety strikes on a case-by-case basis as a last resort.”

The announcement was made during the AFT’s biennial convention, which is being held as a virtual event.

“Nothing is off the table” when it comes to protecting students and staff, states a resolution passed by the AFT executive council.

“Let’s be clear: Just as we have done with our healthcare workers, we will fight on all fronts for the safety of students and their educators,” says AFT President Randi Weingarten. “But if the authorities don’t protect the safety and health of those we represent and those we serve, as our executive council voted last week, nothing is off the table—not advocacy or protests, negotiations, grievances or lawsuits or, if necessary and authorized by a local union, as a last resort, safety strikes.”

The AFT says more than three-quarters of its members want to return to school, provided the safety measures outlined in the AFT’s reopening plan are in place. But the union asserts that the Trump administration has denied the science on how to safely reopen schools and has failed to provide a national plan.

In addition, the U.S. Senate has still not passed a new stimulus bill that would provide the resources necessary to reopen safely.

The union says school buildings should open only in places where:

  • The average daily community infection rate among those tested for COVID-19 is below 5 percent and the transmission rate is below 1 percent.
  • There is effective disease surveillance, tracing and isolation in the region.
  • Staff who are at high risk have access to special accommodations.
  • There is a statewide, city- or community-level authority empowered to trigger closure in the event of a spike in infection or when public health standards aren’t being met.
  • The district and school have funded safeguards and practices including 6-foot physical distancing, face coverings for students and staff, access to hand-washing facilities, resources and staffing to clean and sanitize facilities, and necessary updates to ventilation and building systems.
  • AFT members and leaders, families and community partners are included in the reopening planning process.
About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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