July 29, 2020 -- The executive council of the American Federation of Teachers has approved a resolution that supports localized teacher strikes as a last resort in school districts that reopen classrooms without proper coronavirus protection.
AFT President Randi Weingarten explained the resolution Tuesday during a speech at the organization’s virtual convention.
“Just as we have done with our healthcare workers, we will fight on all fronts for the safety of our students and their educators,” she said. “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.”
Few details were provided about possible strikes. They would be called on a case-by-case basis “to ensure safety amid the absence of urgency by federal and some state officials to tackle the coronavirus surge,” the AFT said in a news release.
The 1.7 million-member union has put together a reopening plan that calls for schools to remain closed unless certain safety benchmarks are met in the community, such as a 14-day decline in new coronavirus cases and a positive test rate of 5% or less.
The New York Times reported that only two of the nation’s 10 biggest school districts could meet those thresholds.
The AFT’s position puts it in squarely in conflict with the Trump administration.
President Trump has pushed for in-class instruction to resume in the fall, saying it’s important to restore the national economy.
The CDC says it’s imperative to put children back in the classrooms for their growth and education. The CDC has issued guidelines on steps school districts should take to reopen safely and said virtual education is only an option in case of “substantial, uncontrolled transmission” of the virus in a community.
“It is critically important for our public health to open schools this fall,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said.
But the recent surge in cases has made many parents and educators wary. Several of the biggest school systems in the county -- such as Los Angeles and San Diego -- have already announced they’ll start the year with distance learning.