Union Officials Urge Los Angeles Teachers To Support ‘Safety Demands’ To Return To School Sites
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 13: An empty classroom is seen at Hollywood High School on August 13, 2020 in Hollywood, California.
Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

Leaders of United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), a union representing more than 30,000 educators, librarians, and counselors, is urging members to support “safety demands” that must be fulfilled before resuming in-person instruction in the nation’s second-largest public school district.

“We will reject any fixed date that ignores the elements of a safe return,” UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz said during a weekly Facebook Live update on Friday.

She said the union is currently “bargaining on how to physically reopen in a hybrid model,” which combines face-to-face teaching with online learning.

UTLA sent a letter to members this week indicating union officials had “voted to organize against a premature return to schools that will endanger the lives of students, educators, and the community” until certain conditions are met.

Myart-Cruz said UTLA leadership presented a detailed proposal to the Los Angeles Unified School District (L.A. Unified) on Thursday “that reflects our three key safety demands” for returning to campus:

  1.  Los Angeles County must move out of the most restrictive “purple tier” of California’s reopening plan.
  2.  Staff required to return to in-person work are either fully vaccinated or provided access to full vaccination.
  3.  Safety protocols must be in place, including personal protective equipment (PPE), social distancing, ventilation, and a cleaning regimen.

Myart-Cruz said UTLA members would vote on whether to support those demands next week. According to the union, the yes-or-no question that will be presented to members reads as follows:

“I will refuse to return for a full or hybrid physical reopening of schools until LA County is out of the purple tier, staff are either fully vaccinated or provided access to full vaccination, and safety conditions are in place at our schools including PPE, physical distancing, ventilation, and daily cleaning.”

A YES vote means you agree with the UTLA leadership and will join your union brothers, sisters, and siblings in organizing to resist a forced return to school sites until the three conditions for safety mentioned above have been met.

A NO vote means you are willing to physically return to your school or place of work under unsafe conditions, even if the infection rates are still in the purple tier, without vaccinations, and without all of the safety conditions in place, such as PPE, physical distancing, ventilation, or daily cleaning.

According to Myart-Cruz, the vote count will be handled by an outside company called Integrity Voting.

Voting will begin on Monday, March 1 at 8:00 am and end on Friday, March 5 at 5:00 pm.

Some parents advocating for in-person learning to return, along with UTLA critics, have objected to the ballot language.

FOX 11 News interviewed one parent who asked, “Who in their right mind would vote no?”

“It’s just the way it’s worded,” the parent continued. “When you put it that way, who would ever agree to say ‘send me where the conditions are unsafe.’”

Los Angeles County officials plan to administer more than 31,000 coronavirus vaccine doses to educators next week, including those serving L.A. Unified. The L.A. Daily News reported, “L.A. Unified will open one of the nation’s largest vaccination sites – with shots going specifically to education staffs – at Inglewood’s Hollywood Park, home of SoFi Stadium, on Monday.”

L.A. Unified serves more than 600,000 K-12 students enrolled in the district, and its boundaries cover 720 square miles. Almost every student has been taking classes online since last March in an attempt to help contain coronavirus transmission.

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