St. Paul, Minneapolis teachers both vote to authorize strike

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The final votes are in, and teachers in both the St. Paul and Minneapolis school districts have voted to authorize a strike.

The results were announced overnight, and both of the votes were approved by a wide margin as teachers push for better wages and conditions.

Thursday night, more than 78% of union members voted to strike in St. Paul, while 97% of teachers and 98% of support staff in Minneapolis chose to authorize a strike.

“We have hemorrhaged teachers, great educators, in the last two years and that creates an unstable environment for students. What we have put on the table will ensure our students have safe and stable schools,” said Greta Callahan, the President of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers.

Both unions tell us they want things like higher wages, smaller class sizes and more mental health support for students

St. Paul Public School District leaders have said they’ve approved a smaller raise, but don’t have the budget to meet the teachers demands.

Minneapolis Public Schools says it has offered $20 million more for wages over two years, but there is a large gap between that and what the union is asking.

Both districts have said if teachers walk off the job, classes will be canceled during the entire duration of the strike.

That missed time will then have to be made up during spring break or this summer, which has students and parents worried.

“Right now, we can’t see anything, we don’t know what’s gonna happen, what’s going on. We don’t know, like, when the strike happens, we don’t know where we’re supposed to be,” said Ramiyah Jackson, a North High School Junior.

“One thing we don’t want – we don’t not want them to be idle if they have too much time, that’s when they go to the streets, that’s when they’re doing things they shouldn’t be doing,” said Kelly Jackson, the President of the North High School PTA.

The unions also held a joint news conference Friday morning.

“For decades, we have watched district leaders choose to not invest in our students or schools,” Greta Callahan, with the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, said during the news conference. “And we have seen those at the very top, elected leaders, defund our schools. And it’s time to start making some serious investments. We are here to say they cannot afford not to make investments that we are asking for in our students or schools.”

Leah VanDassor, with the St. Paul Federation of Teachers, said, “Our EAs, especially, education assistants especially need to start making a living wage that reflects what they do with our students every day. The time is now to start showing respect to our educators in Minneapolis and St. Paul.”

There will be a 10-day cooling off period before teachers potentially walk off the job. That would not begin until the unions file an ‘intent to strike,’ which both unions said is not expected until after mediations on Tuesday.

Mediation in Minneapolis continued Friday. 5 EYEWITNESS News asked MFT President Greta Callahan if there was any movement or updates she could provide from the morning session. She said no.

Late Friday Minneapolis Public schools provided the following statement:

“At this time, MPS and the teacher and Education Support Professionals (ESP) chapters of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT) have three scheduled meetings with the Bureau of Mediation Services. Because we are committed to reaching agreements as quickly as possible, MPS has requested additional meetings. We believe we have shared values with MFT and it is MPS’ goal to address the needs of our students and educators.”

Nothing is expected to happen with either district Monday. Mediations will continue Tuesday.

The St. Paul Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Joe Gothard released this statement Friday to families and staff members in the district.

The St. Paul Board of Education released this statement Friday regarding the strike vote.