Los Angeles teachers union calls for COVID-19 vaccination mandate, stricter quarantines

Students headed to class on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021. The Los Angeles teachers’ union wants all eligible kids in the district vaccinated, according to a new proposal. In addition, the union believes that if even one person in a class of young kids tests positive for coronavirus, then the whole class should go into quarantine. Photo credit Jon Baird, KNX 1070

The Los Angeles Teachers union is calling for stricter rules when it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations and quarantine protocols.

United Teachers Los Angeles is currently in bargaining with LAUSD and has offered what it calls “progressive proposals” that include stricter quarantine protocols and a “continuity of learning” plan to assist students who are quarantining off-campus.

Monday, in what UTLA is calling “bad faith bargaining,” LAUSD Interim Superintendent Megan Reilly instructed principals to implement the district’s Continuity of Learning proposal, without reaching a bargaining agreement with the union, and without getting input from parents and educators, according to a UTLA statement.

UTLA said it will file an Unfair Labor Practice charge with the Public Employment Relations Board in response to Reilly’s decision, but it also shared a counterproposal for the upcoming school year’s safety protocols with the L.A. Times.

The union’s counterproposal suggested that if someone who contracts coronavirus is part of a classroom with students under 12 years old, then the entire classroom of students and teachers should be quarantined to prevent infection.

UTLA Uncensored shared the union’s demands in an Instagram post. It reads, in part:

“UTLA...is demanding that [LAUSD] rescind and strengthen its latest quarantine protocols, which they announced this past Monday, Aug. 23, stating that educators must continue to teach in-person despite positive COVID-19 cases in their classroom.”

The proposal also offered options for connecting those who are quarantined with continued learning - including a classroom camera to Zoom in during in-person instruction and an option for teachers to meet with quarantined students during scheduled office hours.

“Our bargaining team is bringing proposals to the table with educators and LAUSD families in mind,” UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz said in a statement.

“Families who have had their lives upended by their child having to quarantine do not need a cookie-cutter mandate — they need understanding, flexibility and options. One-size-fits-all solutions do not work in this prolonged public health crisis.”

In its counterproposal, UTLA also announced support for a vaccine mandate for all eligible students ages 12 and over, citing the FDA’s full approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

“Outside of bargaining, UTLA continues to call on the district to actively encourage and facilitate greater access to vaccination for parents, eligible students, and the communities we serve,” the union said. “The district and LA County Department of Health must work together to increase outreach, vaccination clinics, and testing in communities with low vaccination rates and high transmission rates.”

So far, UTLA has had two bargaining sessions with LAUSD.

The UTLA union has long been outspoken about its support for COVID-19 safety. Earlier this month the group voted to support the vaccine mandate for all Los Angeles Unified School District employees. The union has also stated a vaccination requirement is not enough.

“However, vaccines are one layer of protection,” the union said in a statement. “As staff and students return to school, we urge everyone to remain vigilant about all the layered mitigation strategies — from masking and ventilation to testing and tracing — needed to keep our learning spaces safe.”

LAUSD currently requires either proof of full vaccination or weekly mandatory testing for students and staff.

The district also requires everyone on campus to wear masks both indoors and outdoors except while eating. A back-to-school checklist provided by the district is available here.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Jon Baird, KNX 1070