New York City’s largest teacher’s union on Wednesday threatened to go on strike unless the city’s education department complies with a list of safety demands before public schools reopen for in-person classes, including that every person who enters a school building be tested for coronavirus.
The president of the powerful United Federation of Teachers union, which represents 75,000 of the city’s teachers, said the union is prepared to strike if schools open before meeting its demands, which also include implementing one-way lines in hallways and providing schools with N95 face masks and other personal protective equipment.
“Every single person, both adult and child, who is to enter a New York City public school must have evidence that they do not have the COVID virus and that means that we are strongly recommending at this point in time for all adults and all parents to first consider going for an antibody test,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew said.
New York City, the largest school district in the country responsible for teaching 1.1 million students, is set to re-open classrooms to students on time, on September 10. The district will begin the fall semester offering some in-person classes along with some virtual learning over coronavirus concerns.
“We don’t believe it is possible for schools to open on September 10,” Mulgrew said. “It might be one of the biggest debacles in the history of the city.”
“The union is prepared to go to court and/or go on strike if we need to,” Mulgrew said. “Union receiving penalties, I go to jail, all of that. We’ll do it if we have to.”
The NYC Department of Education responded to the union’s threat on Thursday, saying UFT is “fear mongering” with its dire predictions about the consequences of schools reopening.
“We spend hours a day, literally, talking to the UFT about policies and procedures and have delivered on a robust and practical testing protocol,” read a statement from Miranda Barbot, press secretary for the department, including a nurse in every building and a 30-day supply of PPE for every school.
“We have the most comprehensive and rigorous plan in the country, coupled with record-low infection rates,” Barbot continued. “When we see a full plan that is rooted in data and science, we’ll review it – until then, it seems like they just don’t want to say the quiet part out loud: they don’t want to open schools at all for students and families.”