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St. Paul, Minneapolis teachers authorize strike vote

Now that the votes from teachers are tallied, it will be up to the unions to set a strike date.

ST PAUL, Minn. — It was a critical night for two of the biggest school districts in Minnesota, and in the early hours of Friday morning, teachers in both Minneapolis and St. Paul voted in favor of a strike. 

According to social media posts, more than 78% of SPPS teachers and more than 97% of MPS teachers were in favor. State law requires the union to give the district at least 10 days notice before the first day of the strike. 

A joint press conference from the two teacher's unions took place Friday morning at 7:30. 

Strike vote announcement 📣

Posted by MFT 59 on Thursday, February 17, 2022

Unionized educators in Minneapolis were able to cast their votes for a strike authorization vote starting on Monday and running through Thursday.

Members of the St. Paul Federation of Educators (SPFE) could vote Thursday from 2:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and it included all three bargaining groups — teachers, educational assistants, and school and community service professionals. 

State law requires the district and SPFE to bargain every two years. Negotiations started last May between SPFE and the district and the district filed for mediation in November.

SPFE says educator's top priorities include a fully staffed mental health team in every building, lowering class sizes, additional educators working with students with special needs and increased compensation to attract and retain teachers and support staff.

"We understand striking is a big inconvenience, we do," said Ramsey Middle School science teacher Todd Marder. "Our students are worth putting ourselves out there for that because they deserve everything."

Some question the timing of a possible strike after already navigating two disrupted and challenging years.

RELATED: Teacher unions in both Minneapolis and St. Paul holding strike votes

On Facebook, Mycah Struck wrote, "Negotiations should never happen when school is in session. You have the summer months to get your contract done so that children aren't affected."

Steve Hammer also wrote on Facebook, "Parents have to stop working to either watch them or spend more income to pay for child care."

St. Paul special education teacher Joan Duncanson says teachers won't walk off the job right away, if at all.

"It's not a good year to go on strike really, people are really tired," said Duncanson. "I just hope this is the driver that helps us get where we want to go."

She says the strike authorization vote is considered a sign of strength at the bargaining table. Duncanson is hopeful it keeps the two sides in mediation, calling a strike a last resort. 

She says another meeting is scheduled with the district for February 22. The SPFE says the two sides have met another nine times since December.

"If we're talking, we're headed in the right direction, even if it's slow, at least we're talking," said Duncanson.

Following the results, Saint Paul Public Schools Superintendent Joe Gothard sent a message to all SPPS families and staff, saying that "as the leader of Saint Paul Public Schools, it is my responsibility to meet the needs of our students and families and to support all of our staff in their ability to do their jobs."

He went on to say, "I have directed my team to continue bargaining in good faith and strongly urge SPFE and SPPS leadership to do whatever it takes to avoid a strike, especially now after almost two years of disrupted earning."

SPPS and SPFE have another mediation session scheduled for next Tuesday, Feb. 22.

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