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Illinois teachers union intervenes in Madison County lawsuit over staff vaccines

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The largest union in Illinois has filed a motion to join the fight against a Madison County lawsuit over COVID-19 safety mitigations.

The Illinois Education Association filed a motion on Friday to intervene in the lawsuit by 10 teachers from Triad CUSD 2 and Edwardsville CUSD 7 that argued the two districts did not have the authority to require school employees either be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be tested weekly.

The vaccine-or-test guidance did not come from policies developed by the districts. Rather, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced in August that all Illinois school employees, including teachers, would have to get the vaccine or be tested at least once a week. Similar state mandates exist for other professions too, including healthcare workers.

The Illinois Education Association said in a press release Friday that the union filed "in an effort to protect the safety of the workplaces and the health and lives of students and employees by keeping the governor's vaccine-or-test order in place."

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When the initial lawsuit was first filed, members of the Triad Education Association and Triad Educational Support Personnel Association packed a school board meeting. The presidents of both unions spoke during public comment, reiterating the need for staff and student health and safety and distancing the unions from the lawsuit.

In a press release, Triad Education Association President Andrew Frey said 90% of union members were already vaccinated and the majority of those who aren't were complying with the testing process.

Neither Frey nor Edwardsville Education Association Co-President Jennifer Fowler were immediately available for comment on Monday. Schools were closed for Columbus Day, which is a federal holiday.

"We believe the governor did what was legal, prudent and necessary to provide the best educational environment for students and that the districts followed those executive orders because they were following the law, doing their best to keep our students and members safe," Illinois Education Association President Kathi Griffin said in a statement.

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