On November 27, the Cleveland-Heights-University Heights School District (CH-UH) located just outside of Cleveland, Ohio announced it will stop the payment of health care benefits for the roughly 500 teachers and other school employees that are planning to strike on December 2. Teachers and other school employees have been working without a contract since June 30.
The strike threat by CH-UH teachers takes place as the COVID-19 pandemic is raging out of control in Ohio and across the US amid a continued push by the ruling class to re-start in person learning. Ohio is experiencing a daily average of 7,817 new cases and 42 daily deaths.
Elizabeth Kirby, superintendent of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District, said in a statement, “When public school teachers choose to go on strike, they are knowingly walking away from wages and benefits.” She also called on the leadership of the Cleveland Heights Teachers Union (CHTU) American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Local 795 to inform members of the retaliatory measures planned by the school district.
The district’s threat to end payments for health care to roughly 500 teachers and other school employees in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic is a brutal attempt to intimidate a growing wave of opposition by educators across the US and internationally to the homicidal school reopening policy of the ruling class. A similar attempt to intimidate school workers took place earlier this month, with a court granting a restraining order requested by local school officials against Dayton, Ohio school bus drivers, who organized a sickout over failed contract talks.
The action by CH-UH and Dayton school officials, expose the bipartisan attack on public education. Both Cuyahoga County, where Cleveland Heights is located, and Dayton are dominated by the Democratic Party.
Both areas have been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Ohio Department of Health, there have been 9,737 COVID-19 cases in Cuyahoga County and 4,344 cases in Montgomery County—where Dayton is located—between November 11 and November 24. On November 18 the Centerville schools outside of Dayton announced they would return to remote only learning after a surge of COVID-19 cases.
The department of health has also labeled Cuyahoga a “Level 3 Public Emergency,” meaning the county has a “very high exposure and spread” of the virus. Montgomery County is a “Level 4 Public Emergency,” meaning it has “sever exposure and spread.”
According to the CH-UH reporting, between November 18 and 25 there have been seven new COVID-19 cases among staff and one case among students.
As part of previous negotiations between the CHTU and CH-UH officials, the district has insisted that teachers accept massive hikes in health care premiums. A proposed tentative agreement—which was voted down by the CHTU membership in late September—called for health care premiums to increase from 6 percent to 15 percent on top of new co-pays and deductibles. The CHTU has claimed that the increase in premiums would have cost between $3,000 and $5,000 for many teachers.