Dear Sisters and Brothers,
I’m proud of the work all of our members across the state do every day for our students, and I want to thank you for the extraordinary commitment you’ve shown over the past days to protect the health and safety of students, families, education professionals and our communities.
We want to provide you with as much information as possible to guide you in the coming weeks as everyone works to slow the spread of novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19). We will continually be updating our website with new information and resources as they become available here: AFTMichigan.org/COVID19. The national AFT also has resources at AFT.org/coronavirus.
AFT Michigan is in frequent communication with the Governor’s Office, the Michigan Department of Education and members of the Legislature, as we work to support efforts to protect public health and ensure member rights are respected.
AFT Michigan Guidance on Reporting to Work for PreK-12 and Higher Education Workers
The most important thing right now is for people exhibiting symptoms of respiratory illness (fever, cough, shortness of breath, pneumonia) to stay home and isolate themselves to prevent further spread of illness, and to call their health care provider or county health department for guidance before physically going to a health care facility.
At the same time, engaging students in learning, providing meals to students and families, disinfecting buildings, and ensuring payroll is processed is also of paramount importance, and will require many school employees to continue working. Any work that can be done remotely should be, but essential functions that require people to be in common workplaces will require additional care to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Information about proper social distancing, hand-washing, and cleaning procedures can be found in the CDC’s recommendations for preventing the transmission of disease.
In a crisis such as this, we recognize that it is important that all capable hands are on deck. Persons who do not show symptoms and have not been exposed to the virus should comply with directives that they report for work. Some individuals may be assigned to tasks different than their customary work. If you are asked to do something you reasonably think is unsafe, you have the right to protect your health and safety. Members should contact a union representative before deciding to refuse or carry out directives they feel jeopardize their health or safety.
Local union leaders are working with administrators to establish reasonable policies that maximize public health while ensuring essential work gets completed. Local unions have the right to negotiate over policies and their impact, including pay for time not working, appropriate training, and compensation for extra or unfamiliar assignments. AFT Michigan staff are available to help support locals as they navigate these fast-changing waters.
Higher Education Campus Closure Implementation
College and university closures and moves to online learning vary by institution. If you are unclear on the plan at your campus, most institutions have posted the steps they are taking on the homepage of their website and communicated these directives through emails to employees. Union leaders are working with administration on these policies. You should contact your union representative if you are not getting communications from your institution’s administration or the union concerning the implementation plans at your institution.
AFT Michigan has compiled guidance on many issues arising from this sudden change in working conditions. Members should work through their local union representatives and leadership on their individual concerns given the significant variance between institutions and departments. Some of the issues being addressed include:
- No penalty/no sick deductions for days missed because of the coronavirus policy
- Cleaning supplies
- Online training resources
- Virtual office hour options
- Voiding of evaluations for this semester
- Extra pay or flex time when moving to online classes requires more work
- Avenues for online-experienced members to be paid “mentors” in online instruction
- Assurance that necessary technology and internet access are available for all
PreK-12 12 School Closure Implementation
Governor Whitmer ordered the closure of all PreK-12 schools, with the exception of daycare facilities, beginning March 16 and continuing through April 5. To read our statement, the Governor’s statement, and the Executive Order declaring the closure, click here.
We are working with the Governor’s Office, MDE and legislators, along with the Michigan AFL-CIO, AFSCME Council 25, the Michigan Education Association, and school management organizations in support of legislation that allows districts to count these days and hours toward the 180 day/1098 hour requirement, and to ensure that all employees are paid for this time. We expect the Legislature to return on Tuesday morning to address the issue.
Governor Whitmer understands the importance of protecting ALL public school workers from the financial hardships faced if they were to miss paychecks. She made it clear during the press conference announcing the closure order that she believes all employees should continue to be paid as usual during this time period.
AFT Michigan’s Coronavirus Resources Center has additional information on:
- Providing Food to Students During Closure
- Special Education Services During Closure
- Standardized Testing Compliance Given School Closure
Online Learning Resources for PreK-12 and Higher Education
Here are a few resources to assist PreK-16 educators and parents with providing learning engagement outside of the traditional classroom. More resources are available at AFTMichigan.org/COVID19 and we encourage you to share any resources you have to be helpful with us, so that we may share them with others.
- Checklist for Distance Learning from AFT
- Chronicle of Higher Education Guide to Moving Courses Online
- Share My Lesson: As teachers and parents look for ways to engage children with educational opportunities during the school closure period, we recommend using ShareMyLesson to find a wealth of educator-vetted resources.
State of Michigan COVID-19 Hotline
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has launched a statewide hotline to respond to health-related questions about coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Public health and other experts will answer health-related questions about COVID-19. The team can also direct residents, providers and more to the right resources in their local communities and in other state government departments.
The hotline will be open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1-888-535-6136.
The best prevention for viruses, such as influenza, the common cold or COVID-19, is to:
- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. If not available, use hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or upper sleeve when coughing or sneezing.
- Avoid contact with people who are sick.
- If you are sick, stay home, and avoid contact with others.
- Replace handshakes with elbow bumps.
- Stay at least six feet away from others when in a public setting.
If you have additional questions, please reach out to your local union representative or our office at email@example.com.
This is a challenging time for our world. As educators and trade unionists, we know that with strong education and solidarity, we will get through this together.
P.S. To ensure you’re washing your hands for a full 20 seconds, the AFT Michigan staff recommends singing the first verse and chorus to Solidarity Forever.