Mpls., St. Paul teachers, staff authorize strike

Star Tribune/TNS
·2 min read

Teachers and education support staff in both Minneapolis and St. Paul schools district have voted to authorize a strike against the districts.

The authorization vote don't necessarily trigger a strike — union leaders would need to formally notify the district if they determine a strike is necessary. State law requires the union to give the district at least 10 days' notice before the first day of the strike.

With cheers and hugs, the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers reported 98% to authorize a strike.

98%

Teachers in St. Paul also voted Thursday on whether to authorize a strike against St. Paul Public Schools — a move the union took two years ago. More than 78 of St. Paul Federation of Educators voted to strike. Nearly two-thirds of the approximately 3,680 members voted Thursday, including all three SPFE bargaining groups — teachers, educational assistants, and school and community service professionals.

"No one wants to strike, but district leaders haven't budged and even want to backtrack on the investments our students need," said Leah VanDassor, president of the St. Paul Federation of Educators. "The last two years have been hard on everyone. It has also shown us students need even more support, not less. The short-term sacrifice of a strike is worth it so our students have the schools they deserve for years to come."

Negotiations in both districts have dragged on for months, stalled over concerns about wages, student mental health supports, class size and efforts to recruit and retain teachers of color. The teachers union in Minneapolis is pushing to increase starting wages for education support professionals to $35,000 from $24,000.

Greta Callahan, president of the teachers chapter of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers said the status quo isn't working for the city's students.

"Those at the top continue to run our schools with a corporate, top-down model as our students and educators continue to do so much more with so much less," Callahan said at a weekend rally that brought together hundreds of educators from both cities.

On Monday, Minneapolis superintendent Ed Graff sent a letter to families saying MFT's proposals were not "fiscally feasible."

"While a teacher strike is the last thing we want to consider, we know that we are a resilient community that can and will work together on behalf of student learning," Graff said in the letter.

Joe Gothard, superintendent of St. Paul Schools, said in a news conference last week that declining enrollment has further stressed the district's finances and it cannot support the wage increases and additional supports that the SPFE is asking for. He also called for unity and stability, saying "more than ever, we need to come together as an organization."