It’s been a difficult, stressful period for most of us dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic for more than a year now. We’ve learned new skills, done emergency professional development to address our dramatically transformed work landscapes, tried to be there for students experiencing difficulties, and watched as the chaotic events of the last couple of years have unfolded.
All things told, collectively, we’ve done an amazing job navigating the crisis over the past 18 months.
Then vaccines became widely available, and we went into the summer hopeful that we might soon be returning to some semblance of normalcy, only to be confronted by a new surge brought to us by the Delta variant and a dismaying level of vaccine hesitancy/resistance fueled by science denial, irrational fear, and nihilistic political opportunism. Thus, the near future at our workplaces continues to be unpredictable.
In the midst of all this uncertainty, your AFT Guild is continuing to do the best we can to advocate for all of our members to ensure that everyone is safe. Before the latest surge, it appeared that we might be close to loosening restrictions, but now that things are again heading in the wrong direction, we are advising more caution, despite the fact that we do not have the right to negotiate whether the District reopens or not.
Along those lines, we are supportive of mask and vaccine mandates for students and employees as the best way to keep everyone safe and healthy. This applies to the small number of in-person classes that will be offered this Fall and going forward. The safety of our members and the community should be the single most important factor as we proceed through what we hope are the final stages of the pandemic.
We also believe that members with health concerns should be given reasonable accommodations as we move into this new “normal.” Issues surrounding not putting employees in difficult situations when it comes to enforcement should be a priority in District planning. Along with this, the District should ensure that non-classroom faculty and classified professionals are not put in harm’s way by being forced to deal with potentially unvaccinated students or the public, hence thoroughgoing protocols will be necessary.
Know that we have heard your concerns and have incorporated your feedback in all of our work with the District. The AFT Guild has also been involved in the reopening discussions to ensure that our members’ health and wellbeing are at the heart of any plans that are developed.
Finally, it is our hope that our campuses can play a key role in educating and vaccinating our students so that we can finally emerge from all this healthier and wiser in the long run.