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We're going to take care of each other

Updated: May 30, 2020

Dear IFT Member, The last few weeks have been frightening and confusing. The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, is now an unprecedented threat to all Americans. With the closure of all Illinois preK-12 schools through at least March 30, most colleges and universities transitioning to online learning, the governor banning large gatherings, restaurants and bars closing, and store shelves becoming increasingly empty, each of us surely feels uncertain. We are all practicing social distancing, and its impacting our lives in ways we could never have imagined. During this difficult time, I want you to know that the IFT and our locals are on your side. The work of your union is continuing, with a focus on eliminating any potentially harmful effects this crisis may have on your work and family and the lives of students and community members. Yesterday, we announced that the IFT—along with the Illinois State Board of Education, Governor Pritzker’s office, the Illinois School Management Alliance and other stakeholders—has reached agreement on critical issues related to COVID-19 in our preK-12 schools. These guidelines should help ensure that each district follows the same basic rules during this crisis, including paying educators and school employees during the closure, ensuring no change in policies about leave days, and bargaining what work during the closure looks like. You can read the statement here. We’re also working with our local unions and the parties involved to encourage the Illinois Community College Board and the Illinois Board of Higher Education to close all community colleges and university campuses. We feel strongly that the safety of every student and employee is paramount, and the best way to ensure their safety is to shut down attendance at those institutions, allowing nearly all employees—not just faculty, but clerical and support workers too—to work remotely in whatever way makes sense for the schools and individuals. We will keep you advised on our progress. So far, Illinois constitutional offices and state agencies are working cooperatively with our union in regard to state employee working conditions during the crisis. Those who must work onsite continue to do so, but many state workers are in on-call status or working remotely. Regardless of work status, all employees are continuing to receive pay. Employers are reevaluating daily and amending work status as needed to limit employees to potential exposure. We are closely monitoring the situation to ensure this continues.  On Monday, we hosted a statewide call with IFT local, council, and chapter leaders to provide information and discuss how to best advocate for students, citizens, and our members during this crisis. Our national union has been doing similar calls. In addition, the AFT has been leading the fight for adequate safety equipment for healthcare workers who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as being a vocal advocate in Washington D.C. for the legislation needed to support workers and their families. As the situation develops in our state and nation, our union will continue to work to ensure that members, students, and citizens are protected, both from the spread of the virus and negative effects that may result. If you have any questions about how COVID-19 is impacting you at your workplace, please contact your IFT local, council, or chapter president or your IFT field service director. As a father, husband, educator, and union leader, I share your deep concern about how this crisis will affect our lives—today and in the future. Still, I know this: We’re the union. We’re going to take care of each other. This is a scary time, but the answer to that is our solidarity. Please know that we’re hard at work, and we’re going to get through this—TOGETHER. Be safe. In solidarity, Dan Montgomery, IFT President


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