The SF Movement of Rank and File Educators Endorses the Sickout on 1/6/2022 in Response to Unsafe Working Conditions (January 2022)
*This statement was created by two SFUSD educators - one SFMORE member - for the petition that has led to the sickout on 1/6/2022. SFMORE endorses the sickout and the language it uses and so is reproducing it here on our blog.
The new Omicron surge is resulting in a staggering spike of new cases. All across the City, restaurants, venues, offices, and even some private schools are shutting down or halting reopening. And yet, in SFUSD, there have been no calls to halt or even slow our return to schools as Omicron continues to surge unabated. Two years of a small but loud minority of parents, politicians, and reporters demanding we open in unsafe conditions has left many of us reluctant to stand up for our collective safety. The Biden admin has shifted responsibility to the states. The CDC lowered the isolation period from 10 to 5 days, making it clear they put profits before people. Meanwhile, COVID hospitalizations nationwide have exceeded September 2021 levels. New cases are higher than ever. And child hospitalizations are on the rise. So much for the myth of the “milder variant!” Once again we are in the realm of “acceptable losses.”
We face returning to school sites that are in violation of our health & safety memorandum of understanding [MOU] between SFUSD and UESF. We still lack the PPE (KN95 masks), comprehensive rapid testing, and improved ventilation promised us—over six months since our full return to in-person schooling. According to the MOU, we are entitled to high quality KN95 masks at each work site. Many educators report that this has NEVER been the case at their sites. The SFUSD website is touting its partnership with “SaferTogether” to provide rapid testing trucks at school sites, but these are confined to a few elementary schools, not the widespread rapid-testing we need at each site.
The current testing system, as laid out in the MOU, is insufficient, even if it were compulsory. In reality, most school workers are not even getting tested weekly. It’s an opt-in system, and the testing windows are often brief and inconvenient for overworked school employees. Omicron breaks through vaccines and boosters and has a short incubation period. We need regular mandatory testing for all employees and students to ensure that major outbreaks do not occur, especially BEFORE we return to sites. Everyone in schools must be screened, and if “we can’t afford it,” we shouldn’t be opening at all: students who live in multigenerational households and workers with immunocompromised dependents risk bringing home a potentially deadly virus. Let’s not just ask for what we think they will give us: let’s ask for what we actually need. If that sounds like asking too much, then it’s because we’re used to making do with too little. For more on this, listen to this bilingual (Spanish and English) radio interview (episode"Los Homeless se Levantan) with two SF teachers, including petition co-author Rori A.
Let's show them we have the power! We will spread the word among our coworkers, parents, and students, as well as speak to the press and community members. We must show this district, this city, this state, and this country that we value human life over profit; that we will defend the most vulnerable members of our community; that we are tired of expending our blood, sweat, and tears to compensate for the incompetence, greed, and complacence of our so-called leaders; that we DEMAND MORE. By withholding our labor, by reclaiming our time and our health, we send the message that if SFUSD, the City, State, and Federal Government do not invest in seriously addressing this pandemic (and the ongoing issues which make dealing with the pandemic so challenging for public schools), we can shut the whole system down. And we will!
We would ideally like a two week pause before school starts to allow time for testing and sufficient masks and rapid testing supplies to be sent to ALL sites and district offices. That is still the safest course of action.
We would like all of the remedies requested in the COVID Safety grievance, which are as follows:
The District will provide sufficient daily disposable KN95 or N95 masks for ALL staff who are part of the unions listed in the TA.
All staff will be reimbursed to all SFUSD staff who purchased N95 masks in Fall 2021
Access to free weekly testing for all staff and all students should be arranged, with free rapid testing available at ALL SFUSD sites and central offices.
Continuation of 10 day paid sick leave for staff due to COVID and COVID Vaccination related illness.
Eight specific supports and resources for school nurses
SFMORE is calling on all sickout participants and UESF members to attend our virtual organizing meeting on Wednesday, January 12th at 5pm in order to reflect on this action and coordinate stronger actions across our district in response to COVID safety and budget cuts. The zoom link is below, and, for security reasons, you will need to provide your name and school site to protect ourselves from District representatives.
Meeting ID: 599 976 2133
Collective Site Actions for Safe Air and Safe Sites! Day of Action on 9/22! (September 2021)
Our union, United Educators of San Francisco, organized a rally at City Hall on August 31 to make three demands: 1) universal weekly COVID-19 testing 2) air purifiers in every space and 3) high-quality masks for all. Small in numbers, the spirit of the rally made up for it, expressing UESF members’ desire for improved safety conditions in our schools.
Given that San Francisco Unified School District, San Francisco Department of Public Health, and City Hall have not met our demands yet, we believe it is time for UESF members to take collective action at our sites. San Francisco Movement of Rank and file Educators (SF MORE) urges school workers to participate in a day of action on Wednesday, September 22.
At SF MORE’s public meeting on September 2nd, participants from various school sites voted to promote a walk-in at school sites on 9/22. A walk-in means union members (and students and families!) demonstrate in front of their school sites before contract hours and walk-in together in a show of unity and power. A walk-in is a relatively low-stakes action that can build the confidence and organization of our union members to take further action if needed.
Our power to win our demands for health and safety is in collective actions at our work sites. Our schools are held together with our daily labor—they are where we can engage in creative, collective disruption that can push SFUSD, SFDPH, and City Hall to implement the changes that we need.
If you are interested in participating in the 9/22 day of action, please fill out this Google Form! SF MORE will host a virtual organizing meeting on Thursday, September 16 to organize for the action.
Join the UESF Campaign for Safe Air and Safe Sites!
by the San Francisco Movement of Rank-and-File Educators (SF MORE)
The Fight for Safety in our Schools (9/2021)
San Francisco County is experiencing an alarming rate of new COVID-19 cases driven by the highly contagious “Delta” variant, and as of August 14th, our 7-day average is nearly identical to January 1st, 2021, the previous height of the pandemic here in SF. Vaccines protect many people from the worst effects of COVID, but breakthrough infections can still lead to severe illness and hospitalization, and vaccinated people with the Delta variant can still infect the unvaccinated, including the very young and immunocompromised.
SFMORE welcomes our union leadership's call for a mobilization on August 31st with the understanding that such actions must be a first step towards stronger, direct action as a union. If we're to be successful in winning these demands from SFUSD, we will need to unite across our school sites in creative, collective, and democratic disruption. Private schools and wealthier public schools are able to fund purifiers from their own budgets or from among a community of wealthier parents. For the majority of public schools, decades of underfunding have left us with meager resources that barely keep our schools functioning, generating glaring gaps in services and staffing that perpetuate existing class and racial inequalities. Through unity and organization across our sites, we have the power to win what we need and strengthen our union in the process.
The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the organization whose guidelines SFUSD is supposed to follow, released a document titled Guidance for the Reopening of Schools from June 2020 emphasizing the importance of ventilation and filtration as a safety measure during the pandemic. Our Health and Safety MOU states that SFUSD will "try to the best of their ability and to the extent feasible", to meet these guidelines. As of now, SFUSD says that only classrooms with no windows will receive purifiers. For the rest of us, open windows or the existing ventilation systems—which the district says are functional with no evidence to prove it—are supposed to suffice. The District’s response to the problem of air purifiers is that its electrical system lacks the capacity to sustain the increase in energy usage. In a city at the center of global technological progress, it is unacceptable for SFUSD to leave our electrical systems in such a dysfunctional state. As we're all aware now, wildfire smoke is beginning to penetrate our city, creating a health hazard that quality air purifiers can help mitigate.
The material basis for district-funded air purifiers, weekly testing, adequate cleaning, and appropriate health guidelines exists; while the state of California is significantly increasing funding for k-14 schools starting this year, SFUSD “expects to receive $140 million in federal stimulus funding that will help welcome students back with increased academic and wellness support in the fall.” The district must prioritize creating the safest possible conditions in our school buildings to safeguard the health and wellness of our students, staff, and school communities. The United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) set a precedent for this with their Memorandum of Understanding enforcing installation of MERV-13 air filters in their classrooms and required weekly testing of all staff and students (the MOU stipulates testing on a biweekly basis, but has been amended to weekly testing). Oakland Education Association (OEA) has similar stipulations in place regarding guaranteed HEPA filters.
SFMORE calls on our fellow union members, families, and students to participate in our union's mobilizations and to unite our school sites to fight together. We believe that a united movement of educators, families, and students can improve our safety and build a long-term movement in defense of public education and social justice. If you’re interested in participating in this campaign, please sign our Google form, which contains an invitation to a virtual organizing meeting on Thursday, September 2nd from 5-6:15pm