American Federation of Teachers releases resolution supporting 'safety strikes' as 2020-21 school year approaches

The resolution was passed by the AFT's 45-member executive council and announced by AFT President Randi Weingarten during the union's biennial convention July 28. (Graphic by Ronald Winters/Community Impact Newspaper)
The resolution was passed by the AFT's 45-member executive council and announced by AFT President Randi Weingarten during the union's biennial convention July 28. (Graphic by Ronald Winters/Community Impact Newspaper)

The resolution was passed by the AFT's 45-member executive council and announced by AFT President Randi Weingarten during the union's biennial convention July 28. (Graphic by Ronald Winters/Community Impact Newspaper)

The American Federation of Teachers—which represents more than 1.7 million educators nationwide—released a resolution July 28 supporting locally authorized "safety strikes" as a last resort to ensure the health and safety of students and staff as the 2020-21 school year approaches amid rising coronavirus cases.

The resolution was passed by the AFT's 45-member executive council and announced by AFT President Randi Weingarten during the union's biennial convention July 28, according to an AFT news release.

"AFT members have been on the front lines—protecting, educating, feeding and caring for others. Teachers, paraprofessionals and professors shifted to remote instruction in a nanosecond—an incredible display of dedication and flexibility," Weingarten said during her State of the Union address. "But I mourn those we have lost. More than 200 AFT members have lost their lives to COVID-19."

As the debate over schools reopening continues throughout the U.S., the AFT's resolution calls for school buildings to open only in places where:

  • the average daily community infection rate among those tested for COVID-19 is below 5% and the transmission rate is below 1%;

  • there is effective disease surveillance, tracing and isolation in the region;

  • staff who are at high risk for serious health problems or death if they contract COVID-19 have access to special accommodations or workplace adjustments;

  • there is a statewide, city- and/or community-level authority empowered to trigger closure in the event of a spike in infection or when public health standards are not being met;

  • the district and school have developed and funded proper safeguards and practices to protect health and safety including:

    • physical distancing of 6 feet;

    • face coverings to be worn by students and staff;

    • access to well-stocked hand-washing facilities;

    • resources and staffing to adequately clean and sanitize facilities and buses; and

    • necessary updates to ventilation and building systems.



  • AFT members and leaders as well as families and community partners are at the table together envisioning and implementing plans to reopen schools.


"We know that kids need in-person learning and that remote instruction is no substitute for it, but it has to be safe. To state the obvious, we cannot rebuild the economy, including reopening schools, until we get the virus under control," Weingarten said.

The resolution mirrors the AFT's plan to safely reopen school buildings, which was initially issued in April and has been updated throughout the summer. According to the release, the most recent update to the plan outlines three essential conditions for school buildings to reopen: low infection rates and adequate testing; public health safeguards, starting with masks and social distancing, cleaning and ventilation, hand washing and reasonable accommodations for those at risk; and the necessary resources to enact each and every one of these safeguards as well as the supports for meeting kids' academic, social and emotional needs.


"But school districts are immobilized by lack of funding and lack of space, by windows that don't open and bathrooms without soap," Weingarten said. "The average school will need at least $1.2 million, or $2,300 per student, to open its doors safely. Assuming no other budget cuts, that's at least $116 billion—to have the resources to protect the health of students, staff and families, and to have the support to meet every child where they are and to advance every child's learning and development."

According to Weingarten, the ability for schools to reopen safely hinges on the federal government as state budgets continue to get slashed amid the pandemic-induced economic downturn.

"Because states have been so badly hit, federal resources are absolutely essential. And parents, students, school staff and their unions have to be involved, not sidelined," Weingarten said. "This is the 11th hour. We need resources now. Our message has gotten through, but we haven't gotten what we need."

Prior to the virus's resurgence, 76% of AFT members polled in June 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," she said. "Parents are angry, too. A recent [Associated Press] poll shows that the majority of Americans think that school buildings should only reopen with major adjustments or revert to remote instruction."

If school buildings are forced to reopen in communities where AFT-outlined COVID-19 conditions are not met and safety measures are not in place, Weingarten said the union will support the safety of its members by any means necessary.

"Let's be clear: just as we have done with our health care workers, we will fight on all fronts for the safety of our students and their educators," Weingarten 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."
By Hannah Zedaker

Editor, Spring/Klein & Lake Houston/Humble/Kingwood

Hannah joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in May 2016 after graduating with a degree in journalism from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. In March 2019, she transitioned to editor of the Spring/Klein edition and later became the editor of both the Spring/Klein and Lake Houston/Humble/Kingwood editions in June 2021. Hannah covers education, local government, transportation, business, real estate development and nonprofits in these communities. Prior to CI, Hannah served as associate editor of The Houstonian, interned with Community Impact Newspaper and spent time writing for the Sam Houston State University College of Fine Arts and Mass Communication and The Huntsville Item.



MOST RECENT

Consuelo Mendez Middle School has consistently received poor ratings from the Texas Education Agency. (Community Impact Newspaper)
CI TEXAS ROUNDUP: State could take over AISD school board if poorly-rated campus does not improve; new furniture store to open in McKinney and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas in Texas as of Dec. 3.

Julia De Leon, a Harris County Precinct 3 resident and essential worker, spoke Nov. 30 at commissioners court in favor of establishing the Harris County Essential Workers Board. (Emily Lincke/Community Impact Newspaper)
Harris County creates board for essential workers during ongoing pandemic

Local essential workers will now be given a voice to improve working conditions during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic after the Harris County Essential Workers Board was established during the Harris County Commissioners Court session Nov. 30.

The school board will consider whether to call a special election to fill the vacancy or make an appointment. (Zara Flores/Community Impact Newspaper)
CI TEXAS ROUNDUP: Hays CISD to hold special meeting on resignation of board member; Montgomery approves plan for downtown and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas in Texas as of Dec. 2.

Zoo Lights is a light show within the Houston Zoo that happens every year. (Courtesy Houston Zoo Lights)
10 holiday light displays to see in the Greater Houston area

Check out these nine free and ticketed displays to see through December and January in the Houston area.

A new French pastry shop, Le Macaron, will open in December at the Vintage Park shopping center in Spring. (Courtesy Le Macaron)
Le Macaron coming soon to Vintage Park

A new French pastry shop, Le Macaron, will open in December at the Vintage Park shopping center in Spring.

Tomball City Council approved a development agreement with Lovett Industrial for 240 acres at Hwy. 249, Rocky Road Nov. 29. (Anna Lotz/Community Impact Newspaper)
CI TEXAS ROUNDUP: Tomball City Council approves development of 240 acres at Hwy. 249, Rocky Road; JLB Eatery coming soon to Katy and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas in Texas as of Dec. 1.

The Oregon-based drive-thru coffee company has more than 400 locations across 11 states. (Carson Ganong/Community Impact Newspaper)
Dutch Bros Coffee opens fourth Spring-area location on Louetta Road

Locally operated by Amanda Bigam, this is the fourth Spring-area location of the Oregon-based drive-thru coffee company.

HCSO Assistant Chief Mike Lee presents information on the county's new safety policing initiative Nov. 30. (Emily Lincke/Community Impact Newspaper)
Harris County approves $2.6M program to fight violent crime in unincorporated areas

“We are strategically pinpointing and then attacking crime, and the best part of it is we are doing it hand in hand with the community,” Judge Lina Hidalgo said.

The business offers create-your-own cinnamon rolls in addition to other sweet treats ranging from scratch brownies and cookies to edible cookie dough. (Courtesy Cinnaholic)
Cinnaholic coming soon to Grand Parkway in Spring

All Cinnaholic products and baked fresh and are 100% vegan, dairy- and lactose-free, egg-free and cholesterol-free.

Dr. Zane Haider shows his alpaca, Coco Chanel, and its prize from competing in the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in 2021. (Courtesy Orthotex Smile Specialists)
Orthotex Smile Specialists celebrates 5 years in Spring

The office is locally owned by Dr. Zane Haider, and it offers braces and Invisalign services for children and adults.

Crust Pizza Co. is opening soon in Montgomery and Willis. (Courtesy Crust Pizza Co.)
CI TEXAS ROUNDUP: 5 businesses coming to McKinney; Crust Pizza Co. to open two locations in Montgomery, Willis and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas in Texas as of Nov. 30.