Teachers union president Weingarten calls for vaccine mandate for teachers

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American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten said Sunday that she wants the union to support mandatory coronavirus vaccinations for teachers.

This would be a change in policy, as the AFT currently favors vaccination being a voluntary choice. Weingarten told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the rise in cases and the spread of the delta variant have led her to change her position.

“Vaccines are the single most important way of dealing with COVID,” Weingarten said. “Since 1850 we’ve dealt with vaccines in schools, it’s not a new thing to have vaccines in schools. And I think that, on a personal matter, as a matter of personal conscience, I think that we need to be working with our employers – not opposing them – on vaccine mandates.”

Weingarten said that this week she is bringing union leadership together to revisit their previous policy of voluntarily vaccination, even though she says that 90% of her teacher members have been vaccinated already.

The AFT president pointed not just to the rise in case numbers, but to young children’s ineligibility for the vaccines.

“I do think that the circumstances have changed, and that vaccination is a community responsibility and it weighs really heavily on me that kids under 12 can’t get vaccinated,” Weingarten said.

The AFT is currently in the middle of their “back to school for all” campaign, a $5 million initiative aimed at promoting a return to full in-person schooling for the upcoming year by increasing families’ confidence in having their children back in the classroom.

While Weingarten is pushing for vaccine mandates to help make this happen, the Chicago Teachers’ Union indicated that the spread of the delta variant could mean putting in-person classes on hold.

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