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Minneapolis teachers and education support professionals ratify contract after 20-day strike

By staff

Minneapolis educators ratify new contract.

Minneapolis, MN – On Sunday evening, March 27, Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT) Presidents Greta Callahan and Shaun Laden announced that both teachers and education support professionals (ESPs) had ratified their new contracts. Laden is the president of the education support professionals’ local, and Callahan is the president of the teachers’ local of MFT.

Tentative agreements were reached in both locals early on Friday, March 25. Voting took place throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday. The agreements were ratified with 75.7% of the Teacher Chapter and 79.9% of the ESP Chapter voting to ratify the contract.

Teachers and ESPs returned to work Monday morning for a transition day to prep before students return on Tuesday, March 29. The educators had been on strike since March 8 and are returning to classrooms 21 days later. The strike resulted in 14 school days where the schools were closed.

According to MFT the strike resulted in significant increases to the contract from the last offer they had received before beginning the strike. They raised starting wages for ESPs to $23.91 for about 80% of ESPs as well as winning additional days and hours for ESPs in the new contract. They won language to exempt oppressed nationality teachers from layoffs. They won class size caps in the teachers’ contract as well as increases to mental health supports including a social worker in every building, additional specialists, and pay increases for those in adult education and licensed staff.

When the tentative agreement was reached emotions appeared mixed among the educators, with some calling for a no vote and a continuation of the strike and others saying they had won all that they could for now and it was time to return to work and continue to build the union going forward to fight for their demands. In the end the 75.7% and 79.9% votes mean that both contracts were ratified.

On Monday morning educators returned to their schools for the first time since March 7. At Roosevelt High School in South Minneapolis a large group of educators marched into school together chanting “MFT For kids!” as they returned to their workplace.

When MFT publicly announced the contract ratification in their public statement they said, “We held the line for 14 days and we won for our students, schools and each other! Remember that this is a movement and not a moment! There is power in our union.”

While not every educator agreed that it was time to end the strike, the vote to ratify tuned out to be an overwhelming one. The educators did not win everything they demanded but they went on strike after an unacceptable offer that they did not agree to, and by striking they pushed Minneapolis Public Schools significantly beyond what they had previously offered, winning more because they went on strike.

In Chicago, in 2012, the Chicago Teachers Union had its first strike in recent history. Since then, they have gone on strike four more times to continue to build power and improve conditions for educators and have organized many charter schools in the area to join their union.

In Saint Paul, Minnesota, educators went on strike in 2020 immediately before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the schools and ended their strike early. This year, those same Saint Paul educators again built for a potential strike and then settled their contract right before the strike deadline with major wins in the new agreement. They were able to make these gains because the Saint Paul Public Schools knew that they were able to strike and were serious. Now Minneapolis Public Schools and MFT members know that going forward, MFT is a union that can and will strike for the educators and students.

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