New York, NY—Nearly two weeks after teachers and faculty at Hunter College Campus Schools rallied to call for an independent inspection before in-class learning resumes on Tuesday, they voted overwhelmingly over the weekend to authorize their union, the Professional Staff Congress, to call a safety strike if necessary.
The union made clear in a statement earlier this evening that it is considering the strike as a last resort. However, Hunter’s administration has refused to allow for an independent inspection of the largely windowless building that has a history of poor ventilation. At the September 16 rally, PSC’s President Barbara Bowen even said that the union was willing to foot the bill of an independent inspection, but the administration refused the offer.
Since the September 16 rally, the union has taken numerous steps to try to avoid a strike and compel the administration to take action. For example, it filed a restraining order on September 22, asking a judge to block the reopening until the school installs filters that better protect against the coronavirus.
Then on Saturday, New York State Supreme Court Judge Eileen Rakower, granted a temporary restraining order barring administrators at HCCS from compelling teachers and College Laboratory Technicians to return to in-person instruction in rooms without HEPA filters.
After the announcement of the temporary restraining order, PSC’s Bowen lamented the lengths the union has had to go through to get an independent inspection.
“Having real HEPA filters in the classrooms is a victory, but the fact that we had to go before a judge to force the Hunter Schools to follow their own COVID plan after they misrepresented the devices they were using demonstrates why we need an independent inspection of the ventilation in every classroom,” said Bowen.
The HCCS teachers have also voted overwhelmingly in having ‘No Confidence’ in the administrators or their COVID-19 reopening plan.
Upon the teachers’ vote of authorizing the union to call a safety strike, Bowen said the union will be working around the clock before in-person classes are supposed to resume on Tuesday to try to avoid a strike.
“The union leadership is doing everything we can to ensure that safety is protected without needing to strike. We believe the issue can be resolved and that CUNY Chancellor Félix Matos Rodríguez wants to find a resolution. We are ready to negotiate around the clock to reach an agreement.”
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