Detroit school district teachers have scheduled a strike vote for next week over safety concerns as schools prepare to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Detroit Federation of Teachers will vote on the “safety strike” during their monthly membership meeting Wednesday. The union represents about 4,000 district employees.
“A few weeks ago we issued a list of demands in partnership with our sister unions,” union officials said in a statement released Friday. “Our demands continue to go ignored and so it is now time for us to bring the question to our membership to make a difficult but necessary decision for what is in the best interest of our students and members.”
DFT president Terrence Martin has said teachers may walk off the job if they felt working conditions were too unsafe. Their demands included a virtual start to the school year, the ability for teachers to opt in for in-person work, and hazard pay for teachers working in school buildings.
The potential strike illustrates the key role teachers unions are playing in school reopening decisions. Rumblings of strikes in other states are already happening, and national teachers unions equally support the move. Michigan law prohibits teachers strikes, raising legal questions about how the union might seek to justify a walkout over health and other concerns.
The Detroit district approved their reopening plan last month, despite anger and criticism from parents and educators. The district is offering in-person and online learning options. Many districts, including Lansing, Ann Arbor, and Grand Rapids, will be starting the school year virtually.