The second-largest teachers' union in the US said it supports strikes to ensure safe classrooms

First grade teacher Yolanda Vasquez stands in protest along with other teachers and counselors in front of the Hillsborough County Schools District Office on July 16, 2020, in Tampa, Florida.Octavio Jones/Getty Images
  • The second-largest teachers' union in the US said it would support members if they were to strike against returning to unsafe classrooms on Tuesday, according to The New York Times.
  • The union said strikes should be a "last resort" for its 1.7 million members. Many teachers are already protesting school reopening plans.
  • The union is advocating for a delayed start to the school year, with schools only reopening in areas that have low rates of coronavirus transmission for an extended period of time.
  • It is also advocating for, among other things, better ventilation, mask requirements, and social distancing requirements.
  • The statement signaling strikes on the horizon comes as Senate Republicans announce a plan to pour $70 billion into K-12 education — but most of that money is tied to schools reopening.

The American Federation of Teachers, the second-largest teachers' union in the US, said it would support members if they decided to strike against returning to classrooms without proper safety measures, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.

The union said strikes should be a "last resort" for its 1.7 million members.

Teachers across the country say they are unprepared to go back to the classroom — with some preparing wills and others considering retiring early. Many teachers are already protesting reopening schools and demanding a delayed start to the year in Iowa, Arizona, Alabama, Florida, and Illinois. Advertisement

The American Federation of Teachers is pushing for a delayed start. Its reopening plan would have schools wait to reopen until local coronavirus transmission rates fall below 1% and daily positive test rates fall below 5% for a sustained 14-day period, meaning most schools in the country would be ineligible to reopen just yet. The comprehensive reopening plan also includes smaller class sizes, social distancing at all times, increased contact tracing capabilities, strong ventilation systems, and mask requirements.

Some of the country's largest school districts, like the Los Angeles Unified School District, already announced a virtual fall to "keep schools from becoming a petri dish." Other school districts continue to stall for time without appropriate federal guidance. Others still are preparing to reopen. A teachers' union in Florida already filed a lawsuit against the state's plan to start in-person classes on August 31.

The union's sign-off on potential strikes comes as Trump continues to push for widespread reopenings and Senate Republicans announce a coronavirus stimulus package that ties funds to reopening schools. Their "HEALS Act" would pour $70 billion into K-12 education, but two-thirds of that funding is allocated to in-person school reopening.
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