Reopening schools is a major workers’ issue in multiple ways. There are the workers inside schools: not just teachers but paraprofessionals, librarians, custodial workers, nurses. Their lives are at stake in the push to reopen schools without regard for safety. Then there are the parents whose ability to work rests in part on their kids not being at home, needing them every three minutes. And, of course, schools prepare children for many of the kinds of work they may do in adulthood—and send them messages how they will be valued and treated as adult workers. Right now, every one of those groups is getting the message that they don’t matter.
On August 3, a national day of resistance is planned by Demand Safe Schools, a coalition of teachers unions, education advocates, and grassroots parents’ groups. While “safe” is a moving target these days, they are emphasizing not just safety in schools but the equitable conditions that will make all students safer at home and better supported for remote learning if that’s what happens. You can check out their list of demands below.
- No reopening until the scientific data supports it
- Police-free schools
- All schools must be supported to function as community schools with adequate numbers of counselors and nurses and community/parent outreach workers
- Safe conditions including lower class sizes, PPE, cleaning, testing, and other key protocols
- Equitable access to online learning
- Support for our communities and families, including moratorium on evictions/foreclosures, providing direct cash assistance to those not able to work or who are unemployed, and other critical social needs
- Moratorium on new charter or voucher programs and standardized testing
- Adequate and equitable funding, through federal stimulus
- Massive infusion of federal money to support the reopening funded by taxing billionaires and Wall Street
● The pandemic has exacerbated differences between unionized and non-unionized retail workers:
Since the start of the pandemic, unions have helped bolster safety protocols for retail workers, given them support to push back on decisions that put them at risk, and allowed them more influence over decisions that impact them directly. In some cases, Appelbaum said, the RWDSU and other unions were able to negotiate higher pay, better severance, and additional benefits such as paid time off to allow workers to quarantine or recover from illness, where necessary.
● Lessons from the Amazon tax victory in Seattle.
● Fully steam ahead on reopening schools? No way, say teachers, write Monique Dols and Peter Lamphere:
Teachers recognize the educational and socioemotional damage that is being done to students through remote learning, and we desperately miss our students and classrooms.
But many of us are coming to the conclusion that any opening of school buildings, however partial or “hybrid,” carries tremendous risks and can’t be achieved safely—especially while the community spread is increasing nationally.
● New York state legislature considers additional whistleblower protections—important at any time, essential during the pandemic.
● Speeding up poultry lines in a pandemic puts workers' lives in danger.
● Ten better uses for 10% of the Pentagon budget. And by the way, there's bipartisan support for cutting the Pentagon budget by 10%.
● Fear at work: An inside account of how employers threaten, intimidate, and harass workers to stop them from exercising their right to collective bargaining.