St. Paul Public Schools teachers vote to authorize strike

St. Paul Public Schools teachers vote to authorize strike

Over two-thirds of the union’s 3,689 members voted Thursday, with 92% voting “yes” to a strike, according to a news release from St. Paul Federation of Educators.

Teachers with St. Paul Public Schools voted Thursday to authorize a strike.

Over two-thirds of the union’s 3,689 members voted Thursday, with 92% voting “yes” to a strike, according to a news release from St. Paul Federation of Educators (SPFE).

“Nobody wants to strike, but the short-term sacrifice is worth it to give our students the schools they deserve and keep our educators in the profession for years to come,” said Leah VanDassor, SPFE president. “Over the past decade, our union has come together with our community to win improvements to our schools like class size limits and student mental health supports. Now is the time to build on that progress while also helping our educators afford their lives and stay in this district.”

If necessary, the union said a strike date will be released at a later time. The union must give the school district 10 days’ notice before the first day of the strike.

Although the district says the intent to strike may be filed as soon as next week, it emphasizes Thursday’s vote does not mean there will be a strike.

The union held a virtual news conference on Friday morning to formally announce the strike authorization vote results and touched on the upcoming mediation session on Feb. 23.

“SPFE will arrive at the table on Feb. 23 ready to settle and if the district can turn things around and start putting acceptable offers on the table, we will absolutely settle before a strike would occur,” said Erica Schatzlein, leader of the SPFE.

Another full-day mediation session is scheduled for March 1.

“Our schools are amazing thanks to the hard work and dedication of our staff,” said Pat Pratt-Cook, the lead negotiator for SPPS on Friday in response to the vote results. “It is essential that we settle contracts that allow all of our employees to have the support they need to serve our students and families, while ensuring that SPPS has a balanced budget this year and into the future.”

Union leaders say they are asking for additional mental health teams, lower health insurance costs and better wages.

District officials say there are ongoing negotiations but add what the union is asking for is almost $100 million over budget. In addition, the district’s response on Friday says the new funding it received from the state has many requirements that dictate how it has to be spent. CLICK HERE for the district’s full response.

Leaders of SPFE say teachers have been working without a contract since July 1 and filed for mediation with the district in December.

According to the district, SPFE members are working under the contract for 2021 and 2023 until a new one is settled, which they add is standard practice across school districts and other public entities.

SPPS had sent a letter to staff members on Thursday, saying bargaining teams spent the previous two full days in mediation, which is a non-public process, so no other details about those discussions are available.

However, the district did write the two days were productive and are moving both sides closer to settling new contracts for all three of the union’s bargaining groups, which cover teachers, educational assistants, and school and community services personnel.

The district said they said will “focus on wages, benefits and other proposals that have significant costs associated with them” in future bargaining sessions. District leaders say they are still “far apart in terms of how much SPPS is able to invest and how much SPFE is asking for in their remaining proposals.”

Union members haven’t gone on strike since 2020, but they did take a strike vote in 2022 and struck a last-minute deal.