What would a strike at every school in every neighborhood mean for workers in Minneapolis?
The last time the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT) went on strike was over 50 years ago, amidst a national trend of unions avoiding striking for the last 40 years. Teachers have been more willing to break that trend due to the corporate attempts to reform public schools over the last two decades through efforts like charter schools, draconian teacher evaluations linked to standardized testing and blame for expanding wealth inequality that results in more challenging learning conditions.
Ever-increasing workloads have been exacerbated by the pandemic, pushing a record number of educators to leave the profession. This increased pressure and Minneapolis Public Schools’ (MPS) refusal to negotiate over the health and safety impacts of Covid on classroom conditions have pushed educators to take workplace action against the school district’s intransigence. We are seeing a change in the national climate around labor with more strikes across the country. Teacher strikes have an even greater chance of amplifying this climate as they affect all workers with children in school.
Teachers in the MFT haven’t had much more than a cost-of-living increase in pay in over 20 years. The 20% raise we’re asking for would just catch us up to where cuts left us 20 years ago! Our Education Support Professionals (ESPs) deserve a living wage as they are routinely employed fewer hours than they need to make ends meet. Our schools need counselors and social workers with reasonable caseloads that allow them the time to meaningfully address the increasing range of students’ needs around trauma, addiction and grief from the pandemic alone.
This spring, as the MFT moves closer to serious action, DSA members should be ready to mobilize in solidarity. Public schools are a pillar of democracy and, as workers in our schools fight to democratize their workplace, increase pay and improve the prospects for the next generation, all workers in Minneapolis should take part in the movement to build labor power. On January 17th, the MFT will host a march and rally to highlight our negotiations and invite workers from across the city to support and take part in this struggle for control of our public schools. Please join us at Government Center at 2 pm as we march to Commons Park (next to US Bank Stadium) for the MFT Rally.
By Dan T.