The UFT’s Michael Mulgrew and school safety during a pandemic.

New York teacher union president Michael Mulgrew held a town hall for his members yesterday.

According to the summary NYC Educator posted this morning, Mulgrew said this about school vaccinations, masking and other Covid related matters.

We are not, however, pushing against masks. And there is, in fact, no mandating of vaccines. Government can mandate it but has not. We are not supporting that at this point, but we understand best way out is for more people to be vaccinated, according to our doctors. You can’t, however, say people who aren’t vaccinated shouldn’t be able to work. Our goal is to get out of pandemic. 

Mayor says all leisure activities require proof of vaccination. In terms of law, it’s clear that government can mandate vaccines. Established in law in 1905 and has been tested in court. Everyone has rights, both people who don’t want vaccines and people who don’t want to get sick. Nonetheless, this law has been repeatedly upheld in diverse districts, regardless whether vaccine is emergency or authorized officially. 

We will defend our people’s rights, and we do need more people vaccinated. Mayor has not mandated it, but we’ve been under mandated testing. Teachers will remain under mandated testing, but city cannot do so on students without remote option. Proof of vaccine means you do not have to be tested. We have asked for vaccinated people to have that option if they like, and I will update you.  

For people who are not vaccinated, testing is mandated, and that is now a collective  bargaining issue. Must be available at worksite during workday, or members should be compensated for own time. Some people say it’s not fair because the vaccinated can also carry Covid, and our doctors think all should be tested if possible. They say that unvaccinated at higher risk of getting and transmitting Covid. They need to get to doctors quickly, especially given new strain. 

There is a lot of contradictions and mumbo jumbo here. But I am struck by the Mulgrew assertion that “everyone has rights, both people who don’t want vaccines and people who don’t want to get sick.”

Of course, teachers who don’t want to be vaccinated have rights, but do they have the right to be in schools with those students who are too young to be vaccinated and potentially infecting them? Or infecting their colleagues?

Legally, the courts have ruled that the government has the right to mandate vaccinations.

But this is more than a matter of court rulings. 

So far, nobody has demanded mandating teacher vaccinations. But if the Delta variant continues to spread, or a new even more deadly variant emerges, what should our teacher unions do? What stand should they take?

Randi Weingarten says there should be no mandates and that vaccinations are subject to bargaining.

I wish she and the NEA leadership had been so concerned about subjects of bargaining when Arne Duncan was shoving test-based teacher evaluations down our throats.

But there are 14,000 school districts, many with union contracts. Others are in states where there are no bargaining agreements. And this is a fast moving crisis.

For me, there are several issues. There is the safety of teachers and students during a health crisis. Vaccination is fundamental to this. 

The central covid divide in this country and globally is access to the vaccine. 

Teacher union leaders should be in the forefront of advocating for access to effective mass vaccination. 

For the unions I think this means mandates and educating members who are hesitant.

One thought on “The UFT’s Michael Mulgrew and school safety during a pandemic.

  1. Perhaps his solution will be a punch to the face. (Remember he famously threatened to do that a number of years ago?)

    But, hmm, will he punch those wearing masks or those not?

    I think we’ve known for years that the union “leaders” are idiots.

    Continue to fight, rank-&-file.
    And wear 😷s while so doing.

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