There's no need to argue with anti-maskers. You might have noticed that these people's minds are impervious to logic. It's not the “concerned parents” we need to appeal to - it's the right to a workplace that is hazard-free that we must invoke. Untold thousands of workers in America have been tortured and murdered by agents of their employers during the struggle to secure this and other workers' rights. OSHA exists to protect these rights. We in Virginia have VIOSH, a state agency that must enforce federal guidelines at a minimum. This means VA standards can be more stringent than OSHA, but not more lax. Federal OSHA guidelines require our employers to implement every practicable means by which to mitigate our exposure to pathogens whose presence can be reasonably expected in our work environment. There are no exceptions provided for this rule. OSHA does not provide waivers for religious or political exemptions. To deny workers the fundamental right of a safe work environment, particularly at the behest of malicious political actors, is illegal and immoral. Teachers are workers, and we have workers' rights. Science deniers and political hacks do not have the right to be taken seriously - but teachers in our public schools do have that right. It's the responsibility of our employers to protect us whiLe we work. Whether sickness and death linger in the air we breathe, or frightened and angry parents try to intimidate us, attack our reputations, create a hostile work environment for us, and make it impossible for us to do our jobs, our employers have the responsibility to take the heat. It's not our problem to solve, and it's unjust to place the burden of fixing it on us. UntiL the CDC and WHO make convincing scientific arguments to the contrary, contact with children in the classroom should be considered hazardous. This hazard can be mitigated in a number of ways - masks and social distancing being the easiest, least costly and most convenient methods. Like safety glasses in most hazardous industries, masks are a minimum requirement in every case. Wearing a welding shield does not preclude wearing safety glasses, just as social distancing does not preclude masking. Science is the correct process to use in order to make predictive decisions. The use of any other standard in matters of public health is unacceptable. Opinions based on irrational skepticism fueled by malicious political rhetoric are not to be entertained, nor are policies that have taken them into account. My students will wear masks whiLe on my watch, and I will not be responsible for enforcing compliance - that is my employer's obligation. If we need to shut down the shop in order to figure this out, we'll do so. I will not be forced to work in an environment wherein the simplest of safety precautions has been neglected. Furtnermore, should retaliatory measures be taken when I make a formal complaint, I'll retire very early.
James Sattva is a Wobbly educator, VCORE member, and part of the Tempest Collective.
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