Teachers Union President Supports Vaccine Mandates For Educators

by Julie Scagell
Alex Wong/Getty

Weingarten reversed her earlier stance on calling for a vaccine mandate

Randi Weingarten, the President of the American Federation of Teachers, said publicly that its stance on vaccinations being strictly voluntary has now changed and they now support a mandate.

“As a matter of personal conscience, we need to be working with employers on vaccine mandates, not opposing them,” Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, told Chuck Todd on NBC’s Meet the Press. She cited the spread of the coronavirus Delta variant, calling it “alarming” and said that led her to reconsider her original stance. The CDC recently came out calling the variant as contagious as chicken pox.

The AFT represents 1.7 million members in the U.S. and is the second-largest teachers union in the country. She also said that, “we are probably the most vaccinated profession right now” and that the majority of her members have already received their vaccine. “It’s not a new thing to have immunizations in schools,” she added.

Previously, Weingarten said vaccines were the most effective way to deal with the virus, and that while teachers should be urged to receive them, she would not support a mandate. Now, it seems, her opinion has changed. “The circumstances have changed,” she said. “It weighs really heavily on me that kids under 12 can’t get vaccinated. I felt the need … to stand up and say this as a matter of personal conscience.”

Weingarten did said if employers decide to implement mandates, they should still include religious and medical exemptions.

According to the White House, nearly 90% of educators and school administrative staff are vaccinated, but according to a recent EdWeek Research Center survey, some 11% of teachers said they won’t be getting vaccinated. In total, approximately 71% of U.S. adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

National Education Association President Becky Pringle who runs the largest teacher’s union has also recently advocated for every person who can be vaccinated to do so immediately. She, however, has stopped short of calling for a mandate.

President Joe Biden announced late last month that federal employees would be mandated to receive the vaccine if they wanted to continue working, but the debate is still heated in much of the country. After the governors of Florida and Texas banned local districts from requiring students to wear masks, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona called them out during a White House press conference Thursday, saying the issue of vaccines and masks shouldn’t be a political issue. Louisiana just surpassed its original record number of hospitalizations as numbers continue to increase.

“There’s ways of which you can do accommodations in all sorts of different ways, which is part of the reason you have to work together on these vaccine policies,” she said.