The Potluck

Minneapolis, St. Paul teachers vote to authorize strike

By: - February 18, 2022 9:38 am
st. paul teaachers strike

St. Paul teachers picket on the overpass near Maxfield Elementary School in March 2020. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

Teachers in both Minneapolis and St. Paul voted to authorize strikes Thursday, the unions announced.

In Minneapolis, members of the teacher bargaining unit approved the vote 2,899-92, with 96% of teachers participating. Education support professionals — such as special education assistants — voted 924-18 in favor, with 93% turnout. The vote took place from Monday to Thursday.

Turnout was lower in St. Paul, with about 66% of members voting. More than 78% of voters authorized a strike. All three St. Paul Federation of Educators bargaining units — teachers, educational assistants and service professionals — voted Thursday afternoon and evening. 

Still, a strike may not happen in either district. The unions have to give at least 10 days notice before the first day of a strike, and contract negotiations will continue.

“No one wants to strike, but district leaders haven’t budged,” Leah VanDassor, president of the Saint Paul Federation of Educators, said in a news release. “The short-term sacrifice of a strike is worth it so our students have the schools they deserve for years to come.”

St. Paul teacher contract negotiations

St. Paul teachers last held a strike in March 2020 over mental health staffing and teacher pay. The district acceded to some of the union’s demands, but union leaders said they felt rushed to reach a deal as the pandemic hit the United States.

This year, the St. Paul Federation of Educators’ list of demands includes 2.5% salary raises, while the school district has offered 1.5% raises.

Last school year, St. Paul’s average teacher salary was $85,457 — the highest in the state. Teacher pay varies widely based on experience and education; in St. Paul, salaries range from $42,459 to $97,742.

St. Paul teachers are also calling for mental health teams in all schools and reducing maximum class sizes by two students. Current class size caps range from 20 to 40, depending on grade and concentration of low-income students.

St. Paul Superintendent Joe Gothard told the Pioneer Press that the district can’t afford the union’s demands, since it’s already facing a $42.8 million budget shortfall.

Minneapolis teacher contract negotiations

The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers teacher chapter is calling for 20% raises, which the union says would put pay closer to what it was two decades ago, accounting for inflation. The district says the proposal’s $120 million price tag is out of reach as it continues to face budget shortfalls, and has offered a $20 million salary package.

Teachers are also asking for each building to have a social worker and counselor on site, and for the district to double the number of school psychologists to bring the psychologist-to-student ratio down from 1:1,000 to 1:500, which is the recommended staffing level.

Education support professionals, including special education assistants, want the district to increase starting pay to $35,000. The current typical starting wage is about $24,000, according to the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers.

They also want the school district to reduce education support professionals’ insurance premiums, which are roughly the same as staff who make twice as much, according to the union. 

 

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Rilyn Eischens
Rilyn Eischens

Rilyn Eischens is a former data reporter for the Minnesota Reformer. Rilyn was born and raised in Minnesota and has worked in newsrooms in the Twin Cities, Iowa, Texas and most recently Virginia, where she covered education for The Staunton News Leader. She's an alumna of the Dow Jones News Fund data journalism program and the Minnesota Daily. When Rilyn isn't in the newsroom, she likes to read, add to her plant collection and try new recipes.

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