NEW YORK - The union for New York City teachers continues to threaten to strike if the city's education department does not agree to certain safety measures. At the top of the list, as FOX5NY.COM has previously reported, is mandatory coronavirus testing.
Many teachers do not trust city officials who say that school buildings are going to be safe. As an example, schools were kept open in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak in the city when other large gatherings were shut down.
Union leader Arthur Goldstein says, "The mayor's answer is 'Trust me, we are doing the best we can.' But we're not doing the best we can."
The new school year begins in just over two weeks and city officials are still making daily announcements on new plans.
Now, teachers are mulling holding the first strike by city teachers since 1968. Union leaders say this isn't about wages but a life-or-death situation. At least 75 Department of Education employees have died with the coronavirus.
"We don’t want anybody to get sick. We don’t want to get sick. We don’t want families to get sick we don’t want our communities to get sick," Goldstein says. "So we are looking at a strike because we’re standing up for the health and safety for community."
The union says it's consulted with several experts who recommend mandatory testing for all students and teachers before they enter school. Some union leaders say that without that, they'll be forced to strike.
"A lot of New Yorkers know strikes by public sector workers are illegal in New York State, and I don’t think the people the city will ever feel good about public servants not being there for them when they need them," Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a Tuesday morning news conference.
He says a voluntary free testing model will work.
In the end, it's the piecemeal daily revelations on the plan that makes the union feel the mayor and schools chancellor are too far behind in planning a safe opening.
The union points to an announcement that was made just Monday that principals create and submit outdoor learning plans by Friday, with no idea on a budget for things like tents and personnel.
"That's absurd, give me a plan by Friday," Goldstein says. "The inequities are outrageous some schools can collect $300,000 a year from their PTA other schools can collect virtually nothing."