Thousands of teachers and school staff across the United States have come out in protest against the reopening of schools. Protests were held on August 3, Monday, across the US, by unions representing hundreds of thousands of educational workers in 35 school districts.
Teachers unions held car rallies in major cities like Los Angeles and Chicago, among others, with slogans that read “Only When It’s Safe” and “Safe Education Is A Must, Returning Now is Unjust”. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, teachers unions put up fake tombstones detailing possible casualties of students and their family members if COVID-19 outbreak hits schools.
TODAY IS THE DAY! Students, teachers, parents, & communities across country are rising to #DemandSafeSchools! Art Teachers made gravestones for car caravan paying tribute to those whom undoubtedly will die if profits r placed over health. #EdEquityOrElse https://t.co/fmThzDcy8q pic.twitter.com/Uy5CLMnNuv
— MTEA (@MTEAunion) August 3, 2020
Educators and support staff have been demanding that schools not reopen unless State and federal governments can ensure safe working conditions. Unions have argued that in-person classes could pose a risk to public health at a time when the US continues to see a surge in new cases of COVID-19 infections and deaths.
The US has reported over 4.86 million cases as of August 3, with over 159,000 fatalities. The country has witnessed a four-week surge in fatalities, as nearly 8,500 new deaths were added last week alone, according to Reuters.
Specific demands of the trade unions include proper scientific backing to attest safety of in-person classes, significantly lower class sizes, aggressive testing among teachers and students, and hiring of more support staff including nurses and counselors in all schools.
Several of these demands are long-standing ones by teachers’ unions across the country, being raised consistently in recent years. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and its exponential spread in the US has only intensified these demands from teachers.
The protests also come at a time when president Donald Trump has made the reopening of schools and businesses a central issue in his re-election campaign for the November presidential elections. Trump and his Republican Party have been pushing to ease counter-pandemic restrictions on businesses and educational institutions.