The United Federation of Teachers finally reached an agreement with city officials on Tuesday morning after months of clashing with Mayor de Blasio and the Department of Education over safety measures that would protect students, teachers, and staff from COVID-19 upon returning to school. UFT President Michael Mulgrew called the disagreements between the city and his union "personal", citing deaths within the organization in March.
“This wasn’t about our wages. This wasn’t about our benefits. We did not want what happened in our school systems to ever happen again,” Mulgrew said in an interview with Inside City Hall Anchor Errol Louis on Tuesday evening.
“Because so many of our members passed away, this was something that was deeply personal and we had all made a commitment to each other that we had to have certain things before we go back into school.”
Mulgrew, who represents over 130,000 school-based members, said 73 members passed away, most of whom were paraprofessionals.
The fight to protect city educators and students lasted until this morning. Mulgrew revealed negotiations were underway until about 9:45 am Tuesday morning, just before the mayor’s daily press briefing. During that briefing, Mayor de Blasio announced he would be delaying the reopening of schools. Under the revised plan, students will no longer be entering schools on September 10. They will now start remote learning on September 16 and begin in-person classes on the 21 of September.
Questions still linger around staffing issues. Mulgrew says the city's plan will not work with the existing workforce. The union president said personnel will be moved around to accommodate the city's blended model program. He also said the city will have to hire more personnel. The likeliness of new hires remains unclear as the city faces a $9 billion deficit.
Mulgrew took a shot at the federal government, saying their response to the pandemic and its impact on the education system was unsatisfactory.
“Every elected official has stood up and said, 'We need to get our schools open and we have to open up safely,' but in order to do this, you are going to need more personnel, you are going to need more funding because all of the safety measures that have to be put in place,” he said. “I mean, a complete failure on behalf of the federal government to do anything to support this.”