Unvaccinated Teachers in NYC Blame Union for Losing Their Jobs

By Petr Svab
Petr Svab
Petr Svab
Petr Svab is a reporter covering New York. Previously, he covered national topics including politics, economy, education, and law enforcement.
October 6, 2021 Updated: October 6, 2021

BROOKLYN, N.Y.—Teachers who were put on unpaid leave for non-compliance with a recent CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus vaccine mandate say New York City’s largest teachers’ union should have fought harder against the city’s vaccination requirement for school staff.

Several hundred teachers and other school staff and supporters chanted, “We will not comply,” and other slogans as they marched on Oct. 4 from the Brooklyn offices of the city’s Department of Education (DOE) over the Brooklyn Bridge and to the Australian consulate in Manhattan in protest of the city’s vaccination mandate for school workers as well as other aggressive measures used in many countries to curb the spread of the virus, which they see as stifling freedom.

“Where is the UFT? Why aren’t they here? What kind of union is this?” somebody in the crowd shouted, referring to the United Federation of Teachers (UFT).

“Where’s is Mulgrew?” the crowd soon followed in a chant, referring to the UFT head Michael Mulgrew.

UFT didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The city gave school staff until the night of Oct. 3 to get at least one shot of the vaccine lest they face a year of unpaid leave or resign with a severance package. Over 90 percent of the staff made the deadline, leaving several thousand resisting, based on data released by the DOE.

When the news of the mandate first came out during the summer, the UFT seemed ready to put up a fight. All it managed to do, however, was get the city to recognize religious and medical exemptions. About 3,000 teachers asked for those, but anecdotal accounts indicate they are sparingly approved. The DOE didn’t respond to a request for data on the matter.

“They caved in, and they shouldn’t have,” said Kay Ellis, 29, special education teacher in the Bronx.

Ellis said she was the only one in her family holding off on taking the vaccine.

“I don’t trust the government,” she told The Epoch Times.

The authorities have been “very fishy” about the vaccine, in her view.

“I’m not usually against vaccines, but there’s something’s that underneath this,” she said.

Epoch Times Photo
Special education teacher Kay Ellis protesting against COVID-19 vaccination mandates in Brooklyn, New York City, on Oct. 4, 2021. (Petr Svab/The Epoch Times)

She said she suspects that through crises such as pandemics, the government pursues goals beyond the mere welfare of the populace.

“I don’t think that they’re very honest and upfront about what the main motive is,” she said.

It heightened her suspicion to see media avoid news about resistance to the vaccine.

“This is how you know they’re hiding something,” she said.

Orline Borno, 51, was a high school teacher for 26 years before being stripped off her job for refusing the jab.

“I call it medical tyranny,” she told The Epoch Times, adding that she found the mandate “unconstitutional” and “immoral.”

She lamented the abrupt end to her decades-long career.

“It pains me. I gave 26 years to the DOE, to my students, to a wonderful profession, and for [the government] to just turn their backs on us, dedicated educators … I feel betrayed,” she said.

Her students were “devastated” to learn of her departure, while parents have backed her decision, she said.

“They understand. They support us.”

Epoch Times Photo
High school teacher Orline Borno protesting against COVID-19 vaccination mandates in Brooklyn, New York City, on Oct. 4, 2021. (Petr Svab/The Epoch Times)

In her view, the vaccination shouldn’t be required because teachers are able to ensure a sufficient level of safety regardless, as they did before the vaccine’s release with mask-wearing and testing for infection.

“We were doing it fine,” she said.

She wasn’t yet convinced of the safety of the novel vaccine, which was approved in record time. What information is available, she found politicized.

“It’s political science now,” she said. “It’s not real science that’s happening right now. It’s causing a divide.”

She suggested the measures to contain the virus went too far in limiting people’s liberties and authorities appear reluctant to let them go.

“If we don’t stop this now, it’s never going to end,” she said.

Borno, who was teaching history at the Benjamin N. Cardozo High School in Bayside, Queens, finds the current period critical to set society’s course on track to freedom.

“This is not the future I want for my students,” she said.

Leeann Barrett, 32, who’s been teaching for eight years, now at the same school as Borno, declined the shot as it’s still too new to be trusted, she indicated.

“The vaccine hasn’t been tested long enough and there hasn’t been enough data to put a lot of concerns aside,” she told The Epoch Times.

She found it “irresponsible” that natural immunity acquired through COVID-19 infection isn’t recognized by authorities in lieu of vaccination, despite studies showing natural immunity provides equivalent or even better protection from the CCP virus.

“It’s become a political thing more than a medical thing,” she said.

Queens teacher Rose Giacalone, 47, was also put off by the rushed rollout of the vaccine.

“All past vaccines … they’ve gone through years of experimentation phase,” she told The Epoch Times.

She doesn’t believe the DOE is dealing with the staffing shortages caused by the mandate as well as it says it is.

“They are lying about the substitutes that they have. They really don’t have enough people,” she said. “They have people who are not qualified. You can’t replace my 23 years of experience with somebody off the street or even a new teacher.”

This issue gave Ellis hope that the mandate may be reversed due to future lawsuits against the DOE.

The agency will have to break its own rules to cope with the shortages, she anticipated. “There are a lot of things they’re going to have to do illegally … with our students,” she said.

Petr Svab
Petr Svab is a reporter covering New York. Previously, he covered national topics including politics, economy, education, and law enforcement.