Important Update from President Sellers 1/26/21

Julie Sellers
CFT President

Important Update from President Sellers 1/26/21

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To: [Activist Name]

Subject: Important Update from President Sellers on Re-Opening of Schools

From: Cincinnati Federation of Teachers/CFOP

Reply To: cft@cft-aft.org

Dear Member,

We understand that this is an extremely stressful time for you and your families. The Board of Education’s unexpected and ill-considered decision to start phasing in in-person instruction on February 1 escalated tensions that were already high.

On January 21, we emailed you about some of the ways we are fighting for you. In the last few days, many BRs and teachers have contacted us to request additional information about teachers’ options to respond to the re-opening of schools.

One step we have taken is to file a grievance contesting the reopening of schools for in-person instruction as a violation of our collective bargaining agreement’s prohibition of unsafe working conditions. (Discussed below.) But there is no guarantee we will get a resolution of that grievance or a favorable ruling from an arbitrator before the district reopens our schools to students in the coming weeks. That’s why we want to describe options available to those of you concerned about your health and safety if required to return to in-person instruction.

1. Leave Requests

Let me be clear: Whether you return to teaching in-person is an individual decision that all teachers must make for themselves based on their own health and safety concerns and the concerns of their family. We don’t know how the District would respond if teachers refuse to teach students in-person, and we cannot assure you that your job, benefits, and pay would be secure if you refuse to report to work.

However, the Collective Bargaining Agreement and federal law provide options you can consider:

  • If you suffer from an underlying health condition such as cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, a heart condition, BMI greater than 30, a pregnancy-related condition such as hypertension, sickle cell, diabetes, or if you are in an immunocompromised state, we recommend you email Benefits Manager Keith Grace ASAP and request an ADA Accommodation that allows you to teach remotely. Provide a copy of a doctor’s note to support your request. If the District cannot accommodate your request, you will be eligible to use sick leave until it is exhausted, and then can take uncompensated leave.
  • If you are ill, injured, pregnant, or under COVID quarantine – or if you are taking care of an ill or injured member of your immediate family (parent, step-parent, child, spouse, sister, brother, grandparent, grandchild, parent-in-law, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, aunt, uncle, nephew niece), you are entitled to use sick leave.

Remember that depression, stress, anxiety, and other emotional and mental problems are illnesses which entitle you to take sick leave. If you are suffering from a mental illness or emotional condition that prevents you from reporting to work, you may wish to contact the Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) for help.

Again, whether you return to in-person instruction is a decision you will have to make based on your individual circumstances. CFT will fight for your right to use sick leave under the circumstances described above. If you don’t think you qualify for sick leave under any of these scenarios, you may request an unpaid leave of absence.

If you have questions about your particular situation, we are happy to advise. Bear in mind that we are receiving a deluge of calls and emails, so please allow us a couple of days to respond to your call or email.

2. The COVID Health and Safety Grievance

CFT is advocating zealously for your health and safety. Among other things, CFT has filed a COVID Health and Safety Grievance on behalf of our members. In the grievance, we argue that teachers and other school staff should not be required to report for in-person instruction unless and until the community spread measures set forth in the “Return to Blended Learning Timeline” are met. In the alternative, teachers should not be required to report for in-person instruction until they have had the opportunity to receive both doses of the vaccine and enough time has elapsed after the second dose for the vaccine to have achieved its full efficacy.

We hope we will prevail on the grievance. But we are exploring all our options, including seeking redress in the courts. Although we understand that many people would like us to share specifics regarding our legal options, but we are confident you will understand why it would be inappropriate to share such information at this time.

3. You Have the Right to Express Your Views

Whether and how schools return to in-person instruction is a matter of public concern, and you have a right to express your views on social media and to the Board of Education and the Superintendent. Until now, the only people who have been disciplined for social media use are those whose tone or language is unprofessional. We encourage you to express your views in a polite and respectful way. We also encourage you to have friends and family in the community express their concerns to Board members as well.

4. Be On the Look-Out for Communications from Your Building Rep and the CFT/CFOP Office

Thank you again for your tremendous efforts on behalf of your colleagues, our students, and families. To say that these are challenging times is an understatement. But together, we will get through this, and come out stronger. Thank you for your continued support for the Union.

In solidarity,

Julie Sellers, CFT President

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