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FCFT Update, Oct 24th 2020

Tina Williams, President, FCFT

Oct 24th, 2020

Dear FCFT Members,

This is an important message, so I encourage you all to read it thoroughly. It discusses what our union members have been doing around safe school reopening, our current situation, and what you can do about it. I know that many members will be returning to school on Monday and potentially in the coming weeks, which means we need to work together in our worksites to keep our schools and our community as safe as possible. If you’re not on a worksite team, email ASAP.

What We’ve Done:

At the beginning of October, FCFT released our fall survey results that show that the vast majority of educators and staff were uncomfortable with the reopening plan. FCFT’s Organizing Committee has built out an action plan focused on health and safety issues, ADA and how instruction will be delivered.

Here is a brief summary of the actions we’ve taken together in the past few weeks.

  • We announced the results of our survey with a press conference where members shared their stories and we outlined our position. We secured press coverage in ABC, NBC, Fox, NPR and other local outlets.

  • We gathered and sent over 300 letters to school board members and FCPS leadership urging them to meet our demands.

  • We held a car caravan to illustrate the remaining unanswered questions that we have with the plan that secured coverage in ABC and NBC.

  • Members put together a Building Safety Checklist that we’ll all use to hold FCPS accountable.

  • FCFT held a safety briefing this Thursday, where an AFT health and safety expert presented on the various components of building safety, including things to watch out for as far as ventilation, PPE, hygiene supplies, cleaning/decontamination, and more.

  • We held an ADA Know Your Rights Training for members on Tuesday, discussing your rights under the law and what the county does and doesn’t have to provide.

  • We’ve held worksite meetings across the county to gather feedback and get educators and school staff plugged into our union’s work.

Where We’re At:

Our united actions over the past 6 months have won us some victories. In August, the county was going to send all staff back into schools, and we delayed it. Two weeks ago, we pushed the county to extend its last-minute deadline for selected staff to decide whether to return in-person. The district has provided more details about supplies and procedures for reopening. And, in response to our advocacy around planning time and workload, Dr. Brabrand restored Monday as a dedicated planning day in his concurrent instruction plan (see p. 32,35 of his plan).

However, FCPS has moved forward with reopening on their new timeline, even while significant safety concerns remain. With no warning, the Superintendent sent out an email Friday evening stating that FCPS will be doing concurrent instruction and again giving staff a short deadline to state whether you will return in person. FCPS has decided that all cohorts will be back in schools by the end of January, and depending on School Board actions, it could be even earlier. This is unilateral decision making in action.

Virginia has not yet implemented collective bargaining (although the governor has signed a collective bargaining bill and we expect this to be implemented in Fairfax County in the future when we vote #UnionYES). Because we do not currently have collective bargaining rights, FCPS has the legal authority to make decisions without consulting its employees or heeding their concerns. This is why we are organizing and taking actions.

I want to emphasize that this reopening will not be perfectly safe. We still are lacking significant details, a clear mechanism for accountability, and it is likely safety will be inconsistent between schools.

What this means for us is that, while reopening begins, we have to build all the pressure we can to make sure it is as safe as possible.

It is up to us and up to you as union members to push for the maximum safety possible at your worksite. If you and your coworkers do not organize around safety at your school, there will be no guarantee what safety at your school will look like.

Actions You Can Take Today:

  • Share your story. Fill out this form to talk about how the school reopening situation is impacting you. We’ll follow-up with you about how we can use your story in our campaign:

  • Sign the petition: We have had 300+ members and allies sign our petition advocating to delay the reopening process. As I mentioned above, reopening is ongoing, but sending this letter is a quick way to register the need for safety while we’re taking other actions to put pressure on the county. The more people sign, the better. Click here to sign and share.

  • Complete the safety checklist with your worksite team and report violations. If you want to get involved organizing for safety, that work starts at your worksite by bringing people together and start organizing to take action. With a team of you and your coworkers, you can collect data about safety at your school, communicate it to your union, and together we can build pressure for safer schools.

  • Finally, talk to your co-workers about joining FCFT. It’s urgent. The larger our community is the more power we will have to keep all of us safe, so now more than ever reach out to your co-workers and encourage them to become a part of the solution.

Additional Events: As we head into this uncertain time, I encourage you all to arm yourselves with information, so that you can advocate for yourself and your coworkers as effectively as possible. Click here to RSVP for upcoming events.

Our ability to change the situation is based on our power as a union, and our power is based on the actions you and your coworkers take to build our union stronger. The union is you. Contact and get involved with a worksite team.

In Unity,

Tina Williams


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