To Fight COVID-19, Michigan Educators Must Create Independent Grassroots Committees

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Educators, parents, students, Register now to attend the Michigan Educators Rank-and-File Safety Committee’s upcoming online meeting on October 15.

More than a month into the fall semester at Michigan’s K-12 schools, it has become abundantly clear to educators, parents, and students — despite the government’s and unions’ relentless lies that “the pandemic is over” – that COVID-19 is once again spreading rapidly in school buildings across the state.

A teacher from Cass Technical High School, the largest school in Detroit, spoke to our committee about the situation there. “Teachers and students are constantly sick and the district is hammering attendance. About 2,500 students are crammed into classes of more than 30 students each,” the teacher described. “I would say around 40% of students, teachers and staff are masked. The English department is largely in windowless rooms and their faculty has had a lot of COVID illness.

But less than three weeks ago, in a 60-minute segment filmed in downtown Detroit during the North American International Auto Show, US President Joe Biden said verbatim: “The pandemic is completed. He added: “If you notice, no one is wearing a mask. Everyone seems to be in pretty good shape.

It was a lie.

Even official numbers, which have always been understated, show that in the United States, on average, more than 50,000 people now test positive for COVID-19 and more than 400 die from it every day, according to tracker Medriva. Children’s hospitals in major cities like Chicago, New Orleans, Seattle and Austin recently reported bed and staffing shortages due to a sudden influx of patients with COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses following the reopening of schools.

In 2020 and 2021, the reopening of schools in the fall corresponded to huge increases in COVID-19 infections and deaths in the United States and around the world. The result was two straight “winters of death,” in which the lion’s share of the more than one million Americans who died from COVID-19 succumbed to the virus.

The reason why schools contribute so powerfully to the spread of community is well understood by scientists. COVID-19 spreads from person to person via tiny aerosols that linger in the air. Buildings full of poorly ventilated classrooms filled with students and teachers from different households form an ideal transmission belt for the virus to infect entire communities. The same goes for auto factories in Detroit and many other workplaces.

On the contrary, the danger is greater this year, because as the virus continues to circulate and new variants continue to emerge, routine reporting of cases and deaths has been significantly reduced, and mitigation measures taken these years, however inadequate, have been almost entirely abandoned. Individuals are left to their own devices as the virus continues to attack all of society.

On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that starting Oct. 20, it would switch from a daily to a weekly report of COVID-19 infections and deaths nationwide. In June, the state of Michigan stopped reporting location-based K-12 outbreaks, leaving educators, parents, and students in the dark. The same Cass Tech teacher explained, “One day recently, we had dozens of teachers, and we got no reports of what was going on. Students will self-report to their teachers that they have COVID, but there is no way to know the total number and there is no contact tracing.

Although it no longer lists affected schools, Michigan’s coronavirus website noted that there are now an astonishing 138 COVID-19 outbreaks currently underway in K-12 schools somewhere across the state, up from 123 the previous week. 21 additional active outbreaks are in a category that includes childcare and school sports. But, as the webpage also states, “many factors […] can lead to significant under-reporting of outbreaks.

Michigan claims another page that 132 per 100,000 school-age children (5-18) in the state now have active cases of COVID-19, with the largest percentage of them in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties in the Detroit metropolitan area.

A parent from Flint told our committee, “My kids are four and five and they got COVID within three days of going back to school. They were sick on September 14. I sent them back on the 20th because the school said that when they had no symptoms after five days, they could come back. They went back to school on the 20th and now my five year old son is sick again… I can send them with a mask but what happens at school I can’t tell especially when they see everyone without a mask.

A large proportion of cases go completely unreported. Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), told NBC News last month that he estimates no more than 5% of cases are reported to public health departments in the United States. . He further explained: “The waning immunity from the latest set of BA.5 infections and the waning immunity from vaccination combined with people inside should combine to mean that we should see infections start to go up from October and increase a little. ”

Educators must act now to stop a third winter of death! Scientists have shown that COVID-19 can still be eliminated and the pandemic can truly be stopped, but only through a program that includes systematic testing, reporting and contact tracing, and most importantly, temporary closures. work and schools – the two main vectors for the spread of the airborne virus, with parents and all workers receiving full financial support.

As a section of the international working class, educators could wield enormous power in the fight against COVID-19 if they were united in the struggle with autoworkers, railroad and airline workers, workers in ‘Amazon, healthcare workers and meat packers, all of whom are also continuing to catch COVID. -19 at work.

But in order to fight for such an outcome, educators must face the fact that official unions, including and especially the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) and their affiliates, have played a role downright treacherous during the pandemic.

Teachers’ “unions” – in effect massive bureaucracies and unions in name only – are among the largest in the country, with millions of members in the 50 states they collect dues from and claim to represent. But far from fighting a fight, unions have facilitated the ruling class’ murderous “forever COVID” policy by keeping teachers divided between districts and states, isolated from other sections of workers in their areas, and misinformed not only on the dangers of the pandemic, but also the possibility of ending it by closing schools and workplaces.

This is expressed perhaps most clearly in the person of AFT President Randi Weingarten, a multi-millionaire who raises more than $400,000 a year in teacher dues. Last summer, Weingarten went on a nationwide “Back to School for All” tour, culminating in the opening of schools for in-person learning in fall 2021 and the biggest surge of COVID-19 ever. today in the United States.

Our professor Cass Tech explained the attitude of the Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT) bureaucracy. “We have had no communication from the district union regarding the disease and the cases, and the union representative at my school told us that we should think about what we want to do for ourselves, and that the district does not was not ‘inclined’ to provide any more mitigations. The school provided us with surgical masks, which do not block aerosols, as well as a tiny HEPA filter and a fan for ventilation, but it is not enough and there is no indication of how or why. use even these small symbolic measures.

Weingarten and his ilk in the union bureaucracy are failing to meet the needs and demands of rank-and-file teachers, many of whom work multiple jobs and scrape and save to buy school supplies and PPE for their classrooms. These people are not labor leaders, but scoundrels of the business-financial oligarchy.

According to Forbes, on May 4, 2022, the day the official death toll from COVID-19 in the United States passed one million, the wealth of the 727 American billionaires had increased by $1.71 trillion since the start of the pandemic. . Unions made this huge upward transfer of wealth possible by keeping schools and workplaces open no matter the cost in lives, a policy they continue to implement today.

Teachers should follow the example of Will Lehman, the rank-and-file autoworker who is currently running for president of the United Auto Workers (UAW). Lehman calls for abolishing the UAW bureaucracy, which like the teachers’ unions has kept workers from fighting, and establishing a network of rank-and-file committees in the shops of every auto plant to put power directly in the hands workers. The past two years have shown that teachers need such committees as much as autoworkers.

The Michigan Educators Rank-and-File Safety Committee is fighting to stop the pandemic by organizing educators, students, and parents independently and in opposition to teacher union bureaucracies. As part of the International Workers’ Alliance of Rank-and-File Committees (IWA-RFC), our committee brings together Michigan educators with educator committees across the United States and abroad, as well as committees of autoworkers, railroad workers, transportation workers, Amazon workers, healthcare workers and many more, in a common fight to empower workers and end the pandemic once for all.

Educators, parents, students, Register now to attend our next online meeting on October 15th.

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