I read this piece in Gothamist with a mix of depression and outrage. As the weather turns colder, teachers and students in NYC are shivering in classrooms. This shouldn't happen.
From the Gothamist piece:
After this week’s streak of chilly, rainy weather, New York City public school teachers said they were getting a preview of how winter might unfold with classroom windows open for ventilation as temperatures drop.
Chris Taylor, a high school teacher in Queens, said he realized this week he had to bring an umbrella to his classroom to make sure his computer was protected from rain.
“Our only ventilation is windows so we need them open,” he tweeted. “On stormy days, I open an umbrella and tuck it into my chair behind me when the rain comes in the window to keep my computer safe.”
One teacher told Gothamist that his class had to keep moving to stay warm on Friday, tossing a ball from desk to desk during lunch. The teacher, who did not give his name because he’s not authorized to speak to the media, said that usually the heat is blasting in his classroom. This year, he’s ordering affordable fleece blankets for the kids in his class -- an echo of outdoor classes during the tuberculosis outbreaks of the early 1900s, when students were wrapped in thick blankets to form so-called "sitting-out bags" to keep them warm.
Gothamist then shows this tweet from teacher and MORE 2016 UFT Presidential candidate Jia Lee.
Chris, Jia, and "one teacher" you are all entitled by UFT Contract to adequate heating AND ventilation.
Here is what the Contract says in Article 10E1:
E. Safe Environment
1. In recognition of the importance of employee safety and health, the Board agrees to provide the appropriate recognized standards of workplace sanitation, cleanliness, light, and noise control, adequate heating and ventilation. The Board of Education agrees to eliminate recognized hazards that are likely to cause serious physical harm.
If Jia, a teacher of conscience who refused to give standardized tests and ran for UFT President, is having difficulty getting the DOE to provide a temperature at a legal level in her classroom cobined with adequate ventilation, then what hope is there for the average teacher?
What is going to take for UFTers to take matters into their own hands and just walk out for the sake of their own health and the health of the few students who do show up for in-person school?
We have written about self-help on several occasions since March. It is your right to leave if it is too cold. Don't worry about your principal if he/she can't address the situation quickly and orders you to stay.
This is from our March 16 posting:
-If any insane administrator questions someone, I consulted the UFT Chapter Leader Handbook about self-help. Self-help is when an employee is insubordinate by defying an order from a supervisor. Normally, a teacher should obey an order that violates the Contract and then grieve. However, the Handbook provides three justifications for an employee to be insubordinate. Two of them apply to our current situation:
First, the employee has a reasonable belief that carrying out the order will endanger the employee's health.
Second, carrying out the order will threaten the safety of others.
When I was Chapter Leader at Jamaica High School, the heat broke down in my third month on the job in 1996. We took the temperatures of the classrooms on thermometers. We called the UFT (it was still a real union back then) and by the next day when there wasn't adequate heat, we were sent to another school and the heat was fixed fast. I understand that it is a completely different situation now during the COVID-19 pandemic but you still have a right to adequate heating AND ventilation. Call the UFT and hold them to enforcing the Contract.
Stay safe all as it gets more disheartening now that NY has hit the 10 new cases per 100,000 residents list of states which would put the state on Governor Cuomo's quarantine list if he didn't end it.