|Randi Weingarten says it's a 'personal matter.'|
"In order for everyone to feel safe and welcome in their workplaces, vaccinations must be negotiated between employers and workers, not coerced. -- Randi Weingarten, Statement July 26th
"Since 1850 we’ve dealt with vaccines in schools, it’s not a new thing to have vaccines in schools. And I think that, on a personal matter, as a matter of personal conscience, I think that we need to be working with our employers – not opposing them – on vaccine mandates." -- AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten, Meet the Press (Aug. 8th)
It didn't take very long for AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten to walk back her opposition to vaccine mandates. RW claims her new position is a "personal matter," a "matter of personal conscience." I'm not sure what that means in this context. Is she not speaking for her union? I guess we'll find out soon enough.
But I'll go out on a limb here and say the real reasons for the shift are fairly obvious.
~Most teachers and parents want their children to return to school safely. The only way to ensure that is to have all adults and as many children as possible vaccinated and masked. The teachers unions misread community sentiment.
~Hours before his death, AFL-CIO Pres. Richard Trumka made clear his support for vaccine mandates. To have the teacher unions appear to be bucking Trumka on this would be divisive and damaging to the entire labor movement.
~At a time when the Biden White House is weighing vaccine mandates for businesses and the federal workforce, there's no way AFT leaders can allow themselves to be seen as oppositional. I'm pretty sure that Joe Biden and Education Sec. Miguel Cardona applied some screws where needed.
~Weingarten's initial opposition to mandates would have put her in step with the most reactionary Republican governors in the nation, like Abbott of Texas and DeSantis of Florida. Both have threatened to punish any school or district that mandated masking or vaxing. DeSantis has even refused to mandate masks and has blocked school districts from requiring them, despite his state leading the nation in pediatric hospitalizations.
There are even more good reasons to explain the union's shift, but I will stop there. I'm just happy for her change of heart on this regardless of what's driving it.
I'm hoping it will get some of our local Chicago union leaders, like AFSCME's Roberta Lynch, who's still opposing mandates, to rethink their positions. Then there's the CTU leadership, who's remaining quiet on the issue.
With schools set to open in days, the delta variant has brought the danger to young children into sharp relief. In Tennessee, for example, the variant is spreading quickly in children--so quickly, in fact, that the state's health department projects that children's hospitals in TN will be completely full by the end of next week.
Two children died from COVID-19 over the weekend in Memphis. and children age 10 and under now account for more than 10% of all new coronavirus infections, one of the highest rates of any point during the pandemic.
The Resistance... Austin, TX school Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde announced that the district will require face masks, defying Gov. Abbott's executive orders banning mask mandates. Entities that defy Abbott's orders face fines of $1,000, but it's unclear if school districts could face multiple fines for violating the order. Abbott's office didn't clarify how the order would be enforced, but in a statement Tuesday it mentioned possible legal action, promising the governor would work with the Texas attorney general to fight "for the rights and freedoms of all Texans."
IL Gov. Pritzker is moving right ahead with vaccine mandates for many state employees including state prison staff. Last week he announced vaccinations would be required for all state employees who work in highly populated facilities. That includes officers in prisons operated by the Department of Corrections and Juvenile Justice. Republicans immediately filed a lawsuit and the FOP went ballistic.
Becky Pringle, president of the largest U.S. teachers' union, the National Education Association (NEA), is still hanging on to the old line. I guess she didn't get the memo about personal conscience. She told the NYT last week that any vaccine mandate should be "negotiated at the local level." But it's not clear what there is to negotiate when both sides have the same interests.
There's also no legal platform for such negotiations and with the clock on school openings ticking, there's no time left to bargain.
Right-wing and neo-fascist media fear-mongers, including populist shockcasters like anti-gay bigot Joe Rogan, have made vax mandates their fave key wedge issue in hopes of driving white, male listeners to the polls next year to restore a MAGA congressional majority.
Rogan, who calls himself a liberal when it's convenient, claims that mandated masks and vaccine passports are driving the country one step closer to "dictatorship." What a fool!