Education support professionals authorize strike amid ‘historic’ deal between MPS, MFT

Education support professionals authorize strike amid ‘historic’ deal between MPS, MFT

Education support professionals authorize strike amid ‘historic’ deal between MPS, MFT

Education Support Professionals (ESPs) in Minneapolis have authorized their union to call a strike if a deal is not reached in mediation on Wednesday.

Dozens of union members from Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) hit the picket lines Saturday morning for ESPs, who voted to authorize a strike against the school district just after midnight on Saturday.

In total, 92 percent of the union’s members voted to authorize that strike.

The union points out, though, that a strike date hasn’t yet been set. First, a notice must be filed with the district with a two-week heads-up before staff actually go on strike, the union says.

“They go back to mediation on Wednesday. I do not know if they’re filing before that or at all. But they have that in their pocket now if needed, and I hope that the Minneapolis Public Schools doesn’t tempt them to use it,” Greta Callahan, MFT president, said. 

A union spokesperson says there are around 1,600 ESPs in MPS, and each works as a paraeducator, a role union members describe as “the backbone of the district.”

“These are people who are supporting all over the building, whether that’s lunch, recess, helping with groups,” Callahan explained. “it will be dangerous for our children if they are on strike.”

The union also says the ESP role is one of the lowest paying in the district. Union member’s demands include asking the district for a “substantial raise” and better health insurance costs.

“One job should be enough. Many of us can’t afford to live in the city where we work. We still have reps who are homeless, some sleeping in their cars,” SAID Catina Taylor, ESP chapter president.

On the other side of that coin, Friday marked a big day for the teacher’s chapter of the union, as a tentative two-year contract was announced.

RELATED: Tentative agreement reached between MPS, teachers; education support professionals still holding strike authorization vote

While neither the district nor the union has shared details on the deal yet, the union says it includes the largest raise of any contract in the last 25 years.

“I am so proud, so proud that we were able to settle this at the table even though we were ready to take it to the streets,” Marcia Howard, first vice president of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers said in a news conference on Friday.

A mediation session between the ESP chapter of the union and the district is currently scheduled for Wednesday.