Anoka-Hennepin Schools to Decide on Strike Vote

Updated: 03/17/2014 6:01 AM
Created: 03/15/2014 7:50 PM
By: Brandi Powell

The battle between teachers and the Anoka-Hennepin School District is heating up as the union and district have yet to reach an agreement that is nine months overdue.

There have been about a dozen public bargaining sessions in addition to four mediation sessions, and the two sides have not yet been able to reach an agreement on teacher contracts.

As head of the teachers' union, Anoka Hennepin Education Minnesota President Julie Blaha is making a big recommendation on Monday: set a date for the question of a strike.

"You never take a decision like this lightly," Blaha said. "We believe that putting that question out there is one more way to build the kind of urgency that helps us come to a solution."

Anoka-Hennepin teachers have not had a strike vote since 2002; however, the contract was able to be settled in time.

Over this past weekend, Blaha said sides were clashing over teacher pay.

"What I think is interesting is we've actually come to a really similar place on some basic compensation issues," Blaha said.

Now, the focus for Monday includes other points of contention.

"We just have a couple of final sticky points, but, they're big ones," Blaha said. "Some significant changes to health insurance, and the idea of slowing down the progress for our younger members, really hits our newest youngest teachers."

In addition, Blaha said the teachers union would like the school board to be more involved.

But this weekend Superintendent Dennis Carlson said the school board's involvement has never been an issue.

"In my 28 years in Anoka-Hennepin, we have always bargained through a lead negotiator," Carlson said. "He has the full authority of the school board at the table. He also always has access to the full school board and me at any time. The school board being at the bargaining table is no reason to prevent us from reaching a settlement that. That has never been an issue."

Blaha said she wants that pattern broken.

"Even if we haven't done it in the past, I think it's really clear it's time for a change," Blaha said.

This isn't the first fight of this kind this year. In St. Paul, teachers and the district were able to get on the same page before a strike last month.

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