Breaking News
More () »

Minneapolis educators can now vote on whether union will go on strike

The president of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers says the union has been negotiating with district leaders for two years.

MINNEAPOLIS — A teachers strike could be on the way in Minneapolis after the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers voted Monday to have members take a strike authorization vote that will start Feb. 14 and go through Feb. 17.

Several steps still have to happen for that to become reality, but with a potential strike looming, some are asking, "Why now?," saying this adds to an already grueling school year. 

"I'd say it's the most stressful school year ever, and we cannot allow our children to go through one more day of current conditions, many of which are years in the making," said Greta Callahan, president of the teachers chapter of the MFT. "A lot of us feel like our district leaders gave up on our students a long time ago, and if we don't do something, nobody will."

Callahan says the union has been negotiating with district leaders for two years around what she calls more "safe and stable schools." Their contract then expired in June. She says they've trying to reach agreements on several issues.

The MFT says some of those issues include fixing the mental health crisis in school, reducing class sizes, controlling caseloads in special education and increasing teacher compensation.

If the teachers go on strike, Callahan says it'll the first time they'll have done so since 1970.

Carlson School of Management professor John Budd says, historically, strikes are rare. But there has been a wave of them lately across the country — the pandemic serving as a reminder people are working a lot for very little.

"They feel so frustrated, powerless and voiceless," said Budd. "It's easy to get frustrated with the workers because in a strike, technically, it's the workers who are taking the step of withdrawing their labor, but they didn't get there by themselves."

Minneapolis Public Schools says it received about $260 million in federal funding as part of the the American Rescue Plan that was signed into law by President Biden on March 11, 2021.

The district says it's made dozens of investments that it decided on with input from its community advisory group, which includes union representatives. 

The district says the first round of funding was invested in PPE, HEPA filters and tutoring. It says the second round of funding will be used for mitigation of student enrollment decline and early childhood expansion. 

The last round of funding is designed to target and support students most impacted educationally and emotionally by the pandemic. You can click here to see list of all the investments the district says it's making with that money.

Still, that may not be enough to keep both parties at the bargaining table. 

"If a strike is painless, then a strike is powerless," said Budd. "I think we need to try and understand where workers are coming from when they’re thinking about striking or going on strike."

Even if the educators approve a strike during the four days of balloting, the union would still need to decide that a strike was necessary and it would need to make a formal notification to the district. 

The district says it moved into mediation in October — a private process neither party is permitted to speak about publicly. 

In a statement, the district says, "MPS continues to participate in mediation with a commitment to fairly, safely and competitively compensating our educators through our contract." 

Watch more local news:

Watch the latest local news from the Twin Cities in our YouTube playlist:

Before You Leave, Check This Out