AFT President Randi Weingarten Says Healthcare Worker Vaccines Are Critical, Must Be Negotiated
WASHINGTON—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten issued the following statement:
“More than 90 percent of the AFT’s educators and school staff, and nearly 80 percent of our healthcare professionals, are vaccinated against COVID-19, and those numbers are only increasing. The COVID-19 vaccine is the most important tool we have to protect ourselves; our families; and the students, patients and communities we serve. As the delta variant spreads and COVID-19 cases rise in unvaccinated communities, we are reminded just how unpredictable this virus is and how critical vaccinations are to keeping our schools open for in-person learning and preventing our hospitals from becoming overwhelmed. With ICUs once again filling up and many reaching capacity, our nurses and healthcare professionals in particular are exhausted and anxious at the prospect of another COVID-19 surge.
“In order for everyone to feel safe and welcome in their workplaces, vaccinations must be negotiated between employers and workers, not coerced. We believe strongly that everyone should get vaccinated unless they have a medical or religious exception, and that this should be a mandatory subject of negotiation for employers to keep their employees safe and build trust. But healthcare professionals are concerned that mandating vaccines outside contract negotiation will only result in more people leaving the bedside at a time when staffing levels are already low from the trauma of the past year. This makes vaccine advocacy more important than ever, and medical professionals must be on the front lines of correcting the rampant vaccine disinformation campaign that is costing American lives.”
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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.