St. Paul teachers vote to authorize strike

St. Paul teachers voted "yes" to authorize a strike.   

More than two-thirds of the union members turned out on Thursday to cast their ballots on whether to strike, and more than 92% voted yes. 

There have been five mediation sessions, and both sides will meet again next week. However, union members will go into the negotiations ready to hit the picket lines after voting to authorize a strike. 

St. Paul Public Schools employs nearly 3,700 union teachers, assistants, and service professionals who have been working without a contract since it expired on July 1, 2023. 

The union's primary concerns include needing more mental health staff, lowering health insurance costs, reducing caseloads for educators working with special needs students, and seeking higher compensation.

St. Paul educators previously called the 2% pay increase they are being offered "unacceptable and disrespectful." 

"The effects of the pandemic are still affecting kids, and we need to make sure there are adequate resources to help them, so they can learn," said Annaka Larson, a St. Paul teacher. 

According to the St. Paul school district, the union’s demands would cost about $112 million, which is nine times higher than what the district has budgeted. 

"I have worked in this district for 15 years, I have two kids, and at the end of every pay period, I'm like, ‘Where did my paycheck go?’" said Larson. 

It's important to note that even if the strike vote passes, it does not automatically lead to a strike. The union would need to provide the district with a strike date and at least a 10-day notice. 

The last time St. Paul teachers took a strike vote was in 2022, but the last strike was in March 2020, which lasted three days. The next mediation sessions are scheduled for Feb. 23 and March 1. 

St. Paul Public Schools released the following statement:

"Our schools are amazing thanks to the hard work and dedication of our staff. It is essential that we settle contracts that allow all of our employees to have the support they need to serve our students and families, while ensuring that SPPS has a balanced budget this year and into the future," said SPPS Executive Chief of Human Resources and lead negotiator Pat Pratt-Cook.