MINNEAPOLIS — Teachers in two major Twin Cites school districts recently authorized a vote to strike, with 97% of teachers in the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT) and 78% in the Saint Paul Federation of Educators (SPFE) voting “yes” early Friday morning.
"What's on the table right now is for us to make some systemic changes," said Greta Callahan, President of the Teacher's Chapter of MFT 59.
She says Minneapolis educators are bargaining with Minneapolis Public Schools to hire more mental health professionals for students, reduce class sizes and for a starting wage of $35,000 for its education support professionals.
"And on average, they're making $24,000 a year right now, which means we cannot even keep those educators in MPS," said Callahan. "And in my chapter alone, we've lost 645 teachers in the last year and a half, we've lost 120 teachers of color.”
SPFE’s top priorities include a fully staffed mental health team in every building, lowering class sizes, and reasonable wages.
Saint Paul Public Schools Superintendent Joe Gothard sent a message to all SPPS families and staff after the vote, saying “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.”
Both teachers unions have not yet filed their official intent to strike.
The unions would have to petition to strike, before a 10-day period would begin for the district and the union to continue negotiations.
"A lot of people think that has already started and it hasn't, and it doesn't even have to ever start if MPS agrees to some of the things we're asking for," said Callahan. “We're not looking forward to having to strike, but we're willing to do so if this is what it's going to take," said Leah VanDassor, President of SPFE.
The strike votes in both cities comes just days before 200 MPS Food Service Workers with SEIU are expected to announce their own strike vote Monday morning.
“And I think you're seeing that across the labor industry right now in general because with with what happened the last two years with the pandemic, things have really shifted with how workers are treated and I think people are starting to feel like, "hey, you know, we're doing important work here," said VanDassor.
We reached out to Minneapolis Public Schools, but haven’t heard back at this time.
Both SPFE and MFT will hold a mediation session with their school districts on Tuesday.