The following joint statement was released today on behalf of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts, the Boston Teachers Union and Massachusetts AFL-CIO.
The statement issued today by the Baker-Polito administration dishonestly and irresponsibly misrepresents the efforts that educators and other school employees in Massachusetts have made to get educators vaccinated so that more of our students can safely return to the classroom and in-person learning.
The administration’s mischaracterization of educators as somehow seeking to take vaccines away from the sick and elderly is untrue and defamatory. Several union leaders had a cordial meeting with Secretary Marylou Sudders this morning concerning the Last Mile Vaccine Delivery Plan, which has been endorsed by health experts across the state. Secretary Sudders asked if we thought she should divert vaccines from other high-need groups to give to educators, and we emphatically declined.
We suggested, instead, that some of the doses designated for educators via the mass vaccination sites be sent to local communities so they could be administered to school employees efficiently and effectively at the local level, with facilitation by firefighters and nurses.
The administration is entitled to its opinion on how it has handled the vaccine rollout, but the administration is not entitled to their own facts. From the onset, our unions have advocated for classifying educators as essential workers and for vaccinating them at the same time as others who are eligible within the current phase of the rollout. Despite mischaracterizations by aides to the Baker administration, we have never advocated for educators to “skip the line” or be prioritized ahead of the sick and elderly.
It is sad, and frankly, reckless that on the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down our state, Governor Charlie Baker is pitting one vulnerable group against another. The Baker administration’s weaponization of the fact that most educators are under the age of 65 distorts several realities, including the presence of underlying health conditions. It ignores the fact that many educators live with and take care of sick or elderly family members, and worry about bringing the virus home with them. And it undermines our efforts for a timely and safe return to in-person learning.
It has become evident that while most leaders at the local, state, and federal level believe that educators should be vaccinated as quickly as possible in order to safely return more students to the classroom, Governor Baker disagrees. We hope that the administration will refocus on increasing accessibility to the vaccine so our state can get one step closer to defeating COVID-19.
Merrie Najimy, President, MTA; Beth Kontos, President, AFT Massachusetts; Jessica Tang, President, Boston Teachers Union; Steve Tolman, President, Mass AFL-CIO