Randi Weingarten, the head of the American Federation for Teachers — the nation’s second-largest teachers union — was blasted Saturday for a tweet that not only vastly over-estimated the number of women who have left the workforce to care for and educate children in the pandemic but ignored that teacher’s unions have been instrumental in keeping kids out of classrooms.
Referencing a linked Mother Jones article, Weingarten claimed that “115% of mothers with young children left their jobs in 2020 because of childcare responsibilities,” suggesting that women were deeply and disproportionately affected by pandemic related lockdowns — so much so that more than 100% of mothers were forced to leave jobs to care for children.
115% of mothers with young children left their jobs in 2020 because of childcare responsibilities. https://t.co/VImJlOeWlQ
— Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten) April 16, 2021
The article argued that mothers who were given full-time free childcare could add $210 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product, though the article did not speculate on how much such a vast federal program would cost American taxpayers.
Indeed, Fox News noted, pandemic-related lockdowns have had a major effect on women, who were forced to balance working from home with remote education, which often left women with two full-time jobs, their chosen career, and as their children’s primary teacher.
The Biden administration “is expected to introduce a separate package for childcare – a federal spending concept that could change how women are able to balance raising a family and their careers,” the outlet said, but the measure seems to ignore the primary reason women are having such a difficult pandemic: a lack of in-person learning.
“Even as the White House attempts to push initiatives to help women get back into the workforce,” Fox noted, “school closures and hybrid programs will continue to take their toll on female employment.”
Teacher’s unions have largely resisted a return to in-classroom learning, using the pandemic to demand increased concessions from school districts, priority in vaccination, and even free childcare for teachers who are moved back to in-person instruction.
Social media critics, many of them parents, blasted Weingarten for suggesting it is the expense of childcare — and not teacher’s unions preventing a return to classrooms — responsible for women’s increased economic disadvantages.
“How can you possibly post this article in good conscience w/o also acknowledging the role of closed schools? You are a national ed leader w/both a platform & a responsibility to help solve this crisis. Instead of fear-mongering constantly, use your influence for good,” one critic fired back on Twitter.
“Yeah, it’s almost like when unions keep schools closed, the burden of ‘distance leaning’ falls on moms who are then forced to give up their careers,” Washington Examiner columnist Tiana Lowe added.
Others pointed out that child care workers were front-line essential workers during the pandemic, and worked through the COVID-19 lockdowns, unlike teachers.
“Thank God for childcare workers who showed up while teachers stayed home! If it weren’t for them, many more mothers would have had to quit their jobs,” one Twitter critic noted.
Weingarten acknowledged, later, that the “115%” number was an error, pointing out that the article said “11.5%” and she forgot the decimal. She deflected the rest of the criticism — that she and other labor leaders were responsible for locking children out of schools despite the negligible threat they pose in terms of spreading COVID-19 — by blaming former President Donald Trump.
“Yikes, made a typo in my original tweet of this article. The stat is 11.5% of mothers w/young children left their jobs in 2020 because of childcare responsibilities, not 115%. Glad so many seized on it-hope it’s not a gotcha but a desire 4 both schools to reopen safely & childcare,” she said. “We released the #ReopenSafely plan to give a roadmap to schools and districts to get back into the classroom safely because the Trump administration failed to offer their guidance or resources to do so.”
The Trump administration has, of course, been out of power for nearly three months and the Biden administration, which replaced it, has already passed a multi-trillion dollar coronavirus relief bill that provides billions to schools.