One of the nation’s largest teachers unions is authorizing its members to strike if their schools plan to reopen without proper safety measures in the middle of the global pandemic.
The American Federation of Teachers, which represents 1.7 million school employees, issued a resolution on Tuesday saying it will support any local chapter that decides to strike over reopening plans.
In providing its blessing, the union is also offering local chapters access to its financial and legal resources as they navigate a return to the classroom. Union officials said they will provide legal support, communications support and staffing to local chapters that vote to strike.
Although the measure says strikes should be considered only as a “last resort,” it lists conditions the organization wants met for schools to reopen. It says buildings should reopen only in areas with lower virus rates, and only if schools require masks, update ventilation systems and make changes to space students apart.
The nation’s largest teachers union, the National Education Association, separately said its members will do “whatever it takes” to protect students.
In Ohio’s largest district, about 2,700 Columbus City Schools educators had previously signed a letter calling on leaders to start the fall term online, with the union arguing that the stakes “are too high for experiments.”
They got their wish Tuesday as the district announced it will start the year with virtual learning for all students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.