Pressing the state for educator vaccines

Pressing the state for educator vaccines

MTA President Merrie Najimy and Vice President Max Page sent the following message to members today:

We want to let you know the status of COVID-19 vaccines for MTA members and what we’re doing to improve and expedite the process.

Our frustration over vaccines reached a boiling point this week when the state unilaterally changed the order of prioritization for Phase 2, effectively pushing until much later when essential “frontline” workers, including preK-12 educators, would be vaccinated. The state also has not responded to our demand that higher education faculty and staff be moved up to the same position as preK-12 educators.

More than 2,500 of you responded by sending a message through our Action Alert. We need thousands more to send emails as soon as possible. Your messages are making a difference.

We, along with the AFT Massachusetts and BTU union heads, met this morning with Secretary of Health and Human Services Mary Lou Sudders and Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley. It was a good start, but we have not yet received answers about when vaccines will be available to you, where they will be administered and through what process. What we were able to do was:

  • Establish that they must communicate better and work with us on the rollout of vaccines so we are never again blindsided, as we were on Monday. They agreed to regular meetings.
  • We pressed the case again for higher education faculty and staff to be moved up with other educators, as they are in 32 other states. We received no assurances, but we will continue to make the case.
  • We let them know that all educators want to be back in their classrooms as soon as that can be accomplished safely; vaccines are key to making that shared goal a reality.

The governor must stop twisting our words by claiming we are saying schools can’t reopen at all until all students are vaccinated. We have never said that. When education staff are finally vaccinated, we expect that more schools will be able to open to more students.

But that will not be the end of the story. Students and communities will still be vulnerable. Some parents will still want to keep their children home. Health and safety measures will still be needed. But vaccinating staff, coupled with frequent and free on-site COVID-19 testing, would be a big step forward.

Keep your messages coming as together we push for our members to be in the vaccine line, sleeves up, as soon as possible.