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Detroit teachers union to vote on strike over COVID-19 return plans

Detroit Public Schools

The Detroit Federation of Teachers will be voting Wednesday on whether to strike over COVID-19 related health and safety concerns.

The union, which represents 4,200 Detroit Public School employees, wants to start the school year in a completely online format.


That’s just one item on their list of demands, which they released back in July. They’re also asking that the Detroit Public Schools Community District work with the union to develop a return to school plan, allowing employees to opt into in-person work, and hazard pay for those who do opt into in-person work.


Terrence Martin is the president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers. He says the school district had not talked to the union at all when creating a plan for return.


“We don’t believe that it’s safe to return to schools right now, not just for staff, but also for students," Martin says. "And we’re urging the school district to mitigate this, and change their minds, and do what’s right, which we believe is going 100% virtual in the fall.”


He says DFT members are worried, and the school district hasn’t listened to them.


“Listening to members, time and time again, via text, via email, via phone calls, reaching out to me and saying 'hey, I’m afraid to return to work face-to-face in the fall, and I’m also afraid that I won’t be one of the people chosen to teach virtually as opposed to face to face,'” Martin says.


He says a lot of DPS students and teachers are Black and brown, and have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.


The school board for Detroit meets on Tuesday. Martin hopes the board will change its mind on starting the school year in person before the union meets and votes Wednesday on whether to strike.


Detroit Public Schools Community District did not respond to a request for comment.


Caroline is a third year history major at the University of Michigan. She also works at The Michigan Daily, where she has been a copy editor and an opinion columnist. When she’s not at work, you can find her down at Argo Pond as a coxswain for the Michigan men’s rowing team. Caroline loves swimming, going for walks, being outdoors, cooking, trivia, and spending time with her two-year-old cat, Pepper.
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