By Sandi Sherman
MINNEAPOLIS, March 12, 2022—For the first time since 1970, more than 4,500 members of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and Educational Support Professionals Local 59 walked off the job on Tuesday, March 8.
Picketers gathered at Minneapolis public schools in the morning and joined together for a huge rally and march in North Minneapolis. The protest culminated at the Minneapolis Public Schools District headquarters in the afternoon.
Marches and rallies have been a daily feature of the strike, including one at the State Capitol in St. Paul on March 9 to demand that the state allocate a portion of its current $9.5 billion surplus to fund public education.
Teachers are demanding from the district to limit class sizes, pay for additional mental health support for students, and increase wages for classroom teachers and the 1,600 education support professionals (ESPs).
Union members point out that the teachers’ salaries in Minneapolis average about $71,000, which is $14,000 less than St. Paul. The union is also demanding that ESPs starting salaries be increased from the current rate of $24,000 to $35,000 a year.
The School District’s response is that there is no money for any of this because enrollment levels have declined.
At the State Capitol rally, Shaun Laden, the ESPs union president pointed to the St. Paul school district, where the union narrowly averted a walkout with a tentative deal, despite facing similar budget challenges as Minneapolis. “We know in Minneapolis, because they did it in St. Paul, we don’t have a budget crisis—we have a values, a priority crisis,” Laden said.
Minneapolis Public Schools did not present counter offers of any kind that address the demands of the teachers prior to the strike.
“We can’t keep bargaining against ourselves. It is their turn to move … this is a fight for them (the district) to have total and utter control,” Greta Callahan, president of the union’s teacher chapter, said during a March 10 news conference. Callahan said the union’s bottom line is increasing starting wages for ESPs to $35,000. She said ensuring ESPs earn a living wage is the union’s top priority.
The union has requested that the real decision-makers, the Superintendent and the Board of Education, come to the table instead of lawyers, human resources representatives, and data crunchers.
About 30,000 students and 4,500 staff have been out of classrooms since the strike started. The strike is getting widespread support from parents, students, and the broader community.
Categories: Labor Movement / Trade Unions