At this point, the obstinacy of the teachers unions in refusing to enable the provision of the public education guaranteed to parents by most state constitutions should require no recounting. Public policy scholars have found that teachers union power is correlated with more protracted school closures. Unions demanded full enactment of radical-left policy programs if they were ever to be expected to do their jobs again.
Randi Weingarten, the nation’s most prominent teachers unionist, responded to criticism of this obstinacy with the unbelievable assertion that “we [her union] wanted kids in school. [sic] I have been arguing for that since April 2020.” Meanwhile, the Chicago Teachers Union, Local 1 of Weingarten’s American Federation of Teachers, is already demanding health metrics that would close schools again, despite vaccination being available to all adults and many students.
With the Biden administration pushing for a return to the mask-and-lockdowns policies of a time before adult vaccination for COVID-19, local teachers unions are all-in on restrictions—on your children and the general public, but largely not their own members. As blue state and city school districts, with aid and comfort from Republicans like Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, push mask mandates on children (who face less danger of complications from COVID-19 than from “ordinary” respiratory infections), the teachers unions and Weingarten cheerlead the mandates.
Even blue-staters are tired of their face diapers, so liberal public officials looking for a face-saving way out of the COVID crisis and Delta variant panic are beginning to demand that government workers (including teachers) get vaccinated against COVID. Now the loudest yelps for liberty are coming from the muzzlers of children, as teachers unions like the New York State United Teachers have objected to vaccinating teachers as a condition of employment.
For her part, Weingarten flip-flopped to favoring vaccination mandates after initially opposing them. While she cited changed circumstances, a cynic might suggest that the image of Weingarten muzzling children while excusing anti-vaccine teachers from mandates might have been too much for her union’s political position to bear.
The teachers unions did not stand alone among Big Labor organizations supporting ineffectual mask mandates for the masses while rejecting requirements to get COVID-19 shots. In Maryland, the University of Maryland Medical System understandably required health care workers to get the shot. 1199SEIU, the nurses union that also represents many nursing-home workers, opposed the demand. In New Jersey, the Health Professionals and Allied Employees union opposed a mandatory vaccination requirement for health care workers proposed by some hospitals.
Before the CDC flip-flopped on mandating public masks after some vaccinated men at “Bear Week” came down with SARS-Cov-2–induced colds, the few remaining places vaccinated people were forced to wear masks on pain of fines or imprisonment were settings controlled by organized labor and organized labor’s allies in the Biden administration, like public transport, commercial aircraft, and schools that Big Labor have turned into little more than prisons.
In their demands that union members not face mandates while demanding that the public “mask up” on pain of fines or imprisonment, Big Labor shows once again that it serves its own special interest, not the public interest. As states like Illinois and the federal government consider expanding union power ever further, that truth must remain front of mind.