© Provided by the Associated Press
Fairfax County Public School buses are parked at a maintenance center in Lorton, Virginia on Friday, July 24, 2020. (AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite)
One of the largest teacher unions in the United States has authorized its members to strike if their schools plan to reopen without adequate security measures during the pandemic.
The American Federation of Teachers, which represents 1.7 million school employees, issued a resolution Tuesday that says it will support any local section that decides to strike over reopening plans. The group said that school buildings should open only in areas where coronavirus infections are low enough and if schools implement certain security measures.
In announcing the measure, the union leader criticized President Donald Trump for ordering the reopening of schools despite there being red hot spots of the virus. Randi Weingarten said Trump’s response was « chaotic and catastrophic » and that it left teachers furious and fearful.
« We will fight on all fronts for the safety of our students and their educators, » Weingarten said at the group’s annual convention. « But if the authorities do not protect the safety and health of those we represent and those we serve, as voted by the executive council last week, nothing is ruled out. »
Union leaders approved the resolution on Friday, but announced it Tuesday at the group’s convention, which is held online due to the pandemic.
The nation’s largest teachers union, the National Education Association, said separately that its members will do « whatever it takes » to protect students.
For weeks, Trump has lobbied for the full reopening of the country’s schools. Last week, he acknowledged that some schools will have to delay returning to face-to-face classes, but he is still asking Congress to withhold future virus relief packages from schools that don’t open.
Some of the nation’s largest districts have chosen to start the school year online, including Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Houston.