New York City's teachers union is demanding all of the public school system's more than 1 million students – and support staff – be tested for the novel coronavirus before the scheduled Sept. 10 opening or its members would stage a strike or some other type of work stoppage.
New York state law bars public sector unions from strikes, but United Federation of Teachers Michael Mulgrew appeared unconcerned during a news conference Wednesday.
"And it all leads to the same place under the law: the union receiving all sorts of penalties, I go to jail, all of that. And that's all fine. We'll do it if we have to," he said, the New York Post reported.
The demand seems virtually impossible to meet. The Post said between 50,000 and 80,000 tests are performed in New York state every day. It means that, at most, 1.68 million tests could be performed across New York in the 21 days before school is scheduled to open.
"Every single person — both adult and child — that is to enter a New York City school must have evidence that they do not have the COVID virus," Mulgrew said. "New York City must have a rigorous and intensive testing system in place."
The UFT also released a two and one-half pages of demands each of New York City's 1,800 schools must comply with and meet.
"It is our judgment at this point that if you open schools Sept. 10, it will be one of the biggest debacles in history," Mulgrew posted on the UFT's official Twitter account. "The minute we feel the mayor is trying to force people into a situation that is unsafe, we go to court; we go to job actions."
Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he expects schools to open with a mix of in-person and online instruction.
His daily briefing preceded the UFT announcement, but after the union released its demands, he accused the union of playing games and moving the goalposts, New York NBC network affiliate WNBC reported. He reiterated a strike would be illegal.
Because of the number of students will opt for online instruction, the UFT believes that at most 750,000 people – students and staff – will require testing, it said on its Twitter account.
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