Striking Minneapolis educators reach tentative agreements with school district

On strike since March 8, the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and Educational Support Professionals announced early today that negotiators for both teachers and ESPs had reached tentative agreements with the Minneapolis Public Schools.

News of the agreement came in a 5:01 a.m news release 17 days after teachers and Educational Support Professionals began walking picket lines and after the district’s 4,500 educators and 28,500 students had missed 13 days in the classroom.

In a massive show of solidarity on the first day of the strike, members of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and supporters marched from Plymouth Ave. to the school district headquarters on Broadway Ave.

In a statement, MFT announced: “These historic agreements contain important wins for our students and the safe and stable schools they deserve. These deals are what 4,500 MFT members went on strike for. Details will be coming out shortly, but it is important to note that major gains were made on pay for Education Support Professionals, protections for educators of color, class size caps and mental health supports.”

Members of both MFT’s teacher chapter and ESP chapter will vote on the tentative agreements over the weekend.

The strike, which began in winter-like conditions which gave way to spring, was the first strike by Minneapolis educators since April of 1970, when teachers waged what was then an illegal strike but which led to important gains including the enactment of Minnesota’s Public Employees Labor Relations Act.

This year’s strike began 19 days after MFT announced the results of a four-day strike authorization vote February 17, reporting that 97 percent of teachers voted to authorize a strike while 98 percent of ESPs voted to strike. The voter turnout was 96 percent for teachers and 93 percent for ESPs.

Contract negotiations for the teachers and ESPs had stretched out for more than one year, including 120 hours with the participation of a mediator.

At a news conference on the first day of the strike, MFT president Greta Callahan announced, “we’re on strike for safe and stable schools… for the future of our city, for the future of the Minneapolis Public Schools.” 

“We are going to be on strike to do whatever it takes,” said Shaun Laden, president of MFT’s Educational Support Professionals Chapter, speaking to the news media on that first day of the strike.

The 17 days since the strike began brought picketing each weekday morning at the district’s 70 school sites, as well as several massive marches and rallies in the afternoons to bring educators and community supporters together in solidarity:

• March 8 brought a march from the Minneapolis Public Schools’ nutrition center on Plymouth Ave. to the school district headquarters at 1250 W. Broadway Ave.

• March 9 saw a rally at the State Capitol.

• March 10 educators and supporters rallied and marched in downtown Minneapolis.

• March 16 MFT organized a unity rally in downtown Minneapolis with SEIU Local 284’s Minneapolis Public Schools food service workers, who filed a 10-day intent to strike notice the day before (Local 284 settled with the district March 17).

• March 18 MFT rallied outside the Minnesota Governor’s mansion.

Members of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers began their first strike in 52 years, walking picket lines March 8, here at Justice Page Middle School.

In the statement announcing the tentative agreement, MFT announced: “We walked out united to change the trajectory of MPS and ensure that educators have a greater say in how we do our work. This too has been achieved and will have impacts that improve our district for years to come.” 

MFT leaders will provide more information at a news conference scheduled for 1:00 p.m. today in front of the school district headquarters at 1250 W. Broadway Ave.

The Minneapolis Public Schools, in a 4:00 a.m. update March 25, announced on its website: “Minneapolis Public Schools looks forward to welcoming students and staff back to school on Monday, March 28, pending a Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT) membership vote. A tentative agreement has been reached with the MFT and Education Support Professionals (ESPs), ending the strike.”

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