Minneapolis teachers strike: Negotiations continue, impacts of no school

Union members are on strike for another day as mediation with Minneapolis Public Schools continues over the weekend. More than 4,500 educators are asking for living wages, smaller class sizes, more mental health support, among other issues.

Negotiators from the district and the union are scheduled to meet at the bargaining table from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. 

Striking teachers and support staff have been picketing on the strike line and gathering for rallies across the city. Hundreds marched through the streets of downtown Minneapolis Thursday afternoon. On Wednesday, the striking educators and their supporters held a rally at the Capitol to demand lawmakers use the state's surplus of $9.3 billion to better fund schools throughout Minnesota. 

MPS negotiation updates can be read on this website. Read more about the educators union's demands here.

Union leaders give Day 5 update

Saturday morning, leaders of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and Education Support Professionals provided a 10 a.m. update to media outside the Davis Center before entering mediation with the district for a fifth day. 

Teachers union president Greta Callahan said the district's offers on Friday were "offensive."

"Yesterday was a disappointing day to say the least," teachers union president Greta Callahan said. "We hope today is going to be a better day. They can make stronger choices."

Callahan says more progress is made when the superintendent and school board members are at the table.

"We can no longer have this middle man of HR and lawyers and data scientists in the way making the decision," Callahan said. "We're really hopeful that today we're going to see more intervention from the real decision makers, from elected leaders, and the superintendent."

ESP President Shaun Laden says there will not be a deal until MPS comes to the table with contract language around competitive pay, class size caps, mental health supports.

Friday's mediation update from Minneapolis Public Schools

Minneapolis Public Schools says it has offered "significant" proposals to MFT and ESP and is waiting for counterproposals from both unions.

"The district team will be working all weekend and is committed to getting students back to school as quickly as possible," the MPS contract negotiations Friday afternoon update states.

MPS wrote that it offered proposals to the teacher's union on class size caps based on highest need and additional pay raises, along with a counterproposal on the union's anti-bias and anti-racist proposal. 

The district also offered a $3-million investment in class size and case load reductions to teachers, according to the MPS contract negotiations update on Friday afternoon. 

For the education support professionals union, the district proposed an 8% wage increase for the lowest paid ESPs, as well as "a reduction in the number of pay ranges to create higher and more uniform wages for ESPs." That includes some ESPs receiving 24% pay raises and more opportunities to work more hours, according to the district. Union president Shaun Laden said Saturday morning the proposal only applies to about 10% of its members.

$2,000 bonuses for all ESP and MFT members have also been placed on the table.

MPS says the bargaining team was scheduled to meet with the teachers union until 6 p.m. Friday, but MFT left at 4 p.m.

MPS: Strike's impact on the school calendar

Minneapolis Public Schools released an update Friday morning, which included additional information regarding how the strike impacts the school year calendar. Students in the district do not have class while teachers strike.

The state law states that the district must include at least 165 days of instruction for students in grades 1-11.

MPS says most seventh and eighth graders, as well as some high schoolers, have no extra days or hours on their calendars. That means the schools will need to make up the time lost due to the strike in order to reach the required 165 days.

For elementary grades at MPS, no time will need to be made up if the strike lasts for five days or less since they have 170 instructional days scheduled. Friday marks the fourth day of the strike.

The district says loss instructional time will need to be made up over spring break, by extending the end of the school year, reducing professional development days, or another strategy that will meet the state's requirements.

Discussions between MPS and the unions continue. The MPS bargaining team is committed to negotiated around the clock Friday and this weekend, the update states.

MPS documents for families:

Educators: ‘Ready to go for as long as it takes’

Union leaders of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and Education Support Professionals provided an update on negotiations with Minneapolis Public Schools around 10 a.m. Friday outside the Davis Center before they entered another day of mediation. They say district leaders need to come to the table and address the "values and priorities crisis."

"We have never been stronger,' MFT President Greta Callahan said. "Our members are ready to go for as long as it takes."

Callahan says she hasn't seen any counterproposals on the union's main priorities. ESP President Shaun Laden and Callahan both say the school board needs to intervene and take charge of negotiations because the current district negotiators "are not getting it done."

If a contract agreement is not reached by the end of Friday, negotiations continue through the weekend.

"We are going to be in here all day today, ready to get this thing done," Laden said. "We are reasonable people – we put proposals on the table that reflect what our students need."

According to MPS March 9 proposal financial summaries, the teachers union is asking for a 21% raise over two years (costing $257.7 million) and the district is offering a 6.4% wage increase over two years (costing $40.6 million). That's a difference of $217.1 million.

On the first day of the educators strike, Minneapolis Public Schools held a news conference Wednesday afternoon. Superintendent Ed Graff said the district is "frustrated, sad, disappointed and concerned" that there has been little movement during negotiations.

"We do have shared values – that’s very apparent to me, board members and the public. Unfortunately, the reality is we’re resource-limited," Graff said during Wednesday's news conference. "The finances we have are not enough to provide the support we need to provide."

Laden also mentioned that Minneapolis food service workers, members of SEIU Local 284, are in mediation Friday. The food service workers at MPS authorized a strike earlier this week, with 98.5 percent of members voting in approval. A 10-day notice would still need to be filed for any potential strike.

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