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Education

Detroit Federation of Teachers authorizes potential "safety strike" over pandemic concerns

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Detroit Public Schools
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Detroit Public Schools

Detroit Federation of Teachers members have given their leadership the go-ahead to strike if the union’s return-to-school safety demands aren’t met.

In a Wednesday evening vote, 91% of participating DFT members voted to authorize a “safety strike” if the Detroit Public Schools Community District doesn’t “implement basic science-based safety protocols before schools reopen during the continuing coronavirus pandemic.”

The Detroit Public Schools Community District had planned to offer students and families two choices in the fall: an online learning option, and face-to-face instruction. Superintendent Nikolai Vitti has been adamant that many Detroit families need the face-to-face option.

But union leaders and members say the vote is a way of protecting themselves, students, families, and the community. Wednesday’s vote authorizes the DFT executive board to call a safety strike if they can’t reach an agreement with the district.

The union said such a strike would not constitute a work stoppage, since teachers would be willing to work remotely and teach online.

“This is the beginning of a fight to ensure that the health and safety protections for our members and our students are in place and enforced,” DFT President Terrence Martin said in a statement.

Martin said DFT members have raised concerns about the district’s re-opening plan for months, and the choice of whether to “work remotely or in person is yet to be codified with signatures and guaranteed for all our members. It is imperative that the District puts protocols in place to protect both staff and students.”

In a joint statement, Vitti and Detroit School Board members said they “acknowledge” the DFT vote, but are “also confident the School Board and the District in discussion with DFT will result in a safe reopening of schools.”

Talks between the union and the district are ongoing. DPSCD is set to begin the school year September 8.

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