American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten said on Aug. 8 that she supports vaccination mandates for educators across the nation.
In an interview with NBC News, Weingarten revealed that the AFT, a union that represents 1.7 million employees in public education, is reconsidering its stance that vaccinations should only be voluntary.
“Since 1850, we’ve dealt with vaccines in schools; it’s not a new thing to have immunizations in schools,” she told host Chuck Todd. “As a matter of personal [conscience], I think that we need to be working with our employers, not opposing them, on vaccine mandates.
“And so I said last week that I wanted to bring my leadership together, and we are this week, to, you know, revisit and to reconsider our policy that we passed in October about voluntary … that the best way to do this was to do it volitionally,” she said.
According to a July 26 statement, more than 90 percent of the AFT’s educators and school staff, and nearly 80 percent of its health care professionals, have been vaccinated against the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus. Meanwhile, 70 percent of American adults have now received at least one vaccine dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while just a little more than half of the total U.S. population has been completely vaccinated.
Weingarten also said she has recently visited Florida and Missouri as part of the union’s “full-court press for back to school,” although schools in the two Republican-run states have stayed open for in-person learning since August 2020, and there are currently no statewide orders to close them in the fall.
“I have really watched, particularly in Florida and Missouri—I was in St. Louis yesterday, I was in Florida on Saturday—and you just see this, and we have to counter … the misinformation,” she said. “This is a public health crisis, and the politics are infecting it.”
While Weingarten didn’t specify what kind of misinformation she saw being spread in Florida and Missouri, the governments of the two states are running up against the AFT’s effort to make K–12 students wear masks.
Last month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order allowing parents to decide whether their children wear masks to school. As several major public school districts seek to defy that order and keep their mask mandates in place, Florida’s Board of Education announced that private school vouchers will be made available for parents whose children are harassed for not wearing a mask.
Meanwhile in Missouri, Attorney General Eric Schmitt is suing St. Louis County, the city of St. Louis, and Kansas City over their new mask mandates. He said those requirements aren’t based on science and ignore the emotional toll on children.
“I think it’s wrong given the data and the evidence and the facts to require school-age kids to wear masks all day long,” said Schmitt, CBS-affiliate KMOV reported. “It inhibits learning. It has severe social, emotional and psychological consequences that have been demonstrated by study after study.”