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Randi Weingarten of the AFT and Lily Eskelsen Garcia of the NEA warned that teachers would take action if schools were opened before it was safe to do so.
The nation’s two biggest teachers unions say they would consider strikes or major protests if schools reopen without the proper safety measures in place or against the advice of medical experts — raising the possibility of yet more school disruptions.
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, previewing a reopening plan first with POLITICO, said funding is needed for a host of public health measures for schools, including personal protective equipment. Collective bargaining, strong enforcement of safety standards and protections from retaliation will be important for teachers and staff so they feel safe to speak up as schools try new approaches, she said.
If schools are reopened without proper safety measures, “you scream bloody murder,” Weingarten said. “And you do everything you can to … use your public megaphones.”
Teachers are united after more than two years of strikes for more state funding and they have “tremendous power” as advocates for children’s safety, said Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association. She didn’t rule out strikes if state leaders move prematurely on a reopening of schools, and she said she believes parents would protest too.