Mpls., St. Paul teacher unions continue negotiations days ahead of potential strike

Families have begun to prepare child care alternatives

A group of people stand holding signs.
On Feb. 23, educators with the Minneapolis and St. Paul teachers unions filed a formal notification of intent to strike at the state's Bureau of Mediation Services. Educators in both cities could strike as early as March 8 if they don't reach contract agreements with the districts.
Ben Hovland | Sahan Journal

The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and the St. Paul Federation of Educators are still on course for a potential strike that could start as early as next Tuesday, March 8. 

The Minneapolis union sent out an update Thursday saying its members were “prepared to do whatever it takes for the schools our students deserve, including forgoing pay starting March 8.” 

Union leaders have accused the Minneapolis district, the third largest in the state, of being “committed to the status quo.”

Minneapolis DFL members have sent a letter in support of the teachers union in that city, saying they support the demands that the union is making. 

Grow the Future of Public Media

MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!

The district said in an email to families that it was “meeting with the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers day and night to reach an agreement.”

St. Paul union leaders are also in negotiations with their district, which are still ongoing and have not yet been resolved. 

“Bargaining teams have been meeting regularly and will continue to do so, including this weekend if necessary with the intention of settling a fair contract and avoiding a strike,” district representatives wrote to families in a note online.

Food workers with the Minneapolis district have also voted to authorize a strike. They’re asking the district to raise wages. Some part-time workers make as little at $15 per hour. 

“This job is so important,” said Cynthia Gross, who’s worked in the district for 30 years. “Today we are saying: Respect us. Respect what we do. We know we are essential. It’s time for the district to step up. We were there during COVID. We love these kids.”

If food service workers are not able to reach an agreement, their strike would come after March 8. 

Child care concerns

If Minneapolis or St. Paul teachers strike, school will be canceled. 

In St. Paul, students will take home iPads with academic activities to work on. In a communication to families, the district said that if the strike lasts for more than two days, it will be necessary to make up those lost academic hours over spring break or in the summer. 

St. Paul is also planning to open “Kid Space” programs at most elementary schools starting March 9 to provide some limited child care. There are also plans to make breakfast and lunch available at those sites. 

Minneapolis has put together an FAQ for families with communications in several languages. It says if a strike happens, it will close its school-based child care programs, but will run a limited child care option. Still, district leaders are asking families to find other child care options and are warning that the school services will fill quickly. 

In communications to parents, Minneapolis district leaders have said they will distribute meal bags with breakfast and lunch foods from schools starting the first day after the strike and will continue to run school-based clinics and mental health services. 

Some families have begun to organize their own child care options. 

Molly Dengler has a first grader who attends Emerson, a Spanish Immersion school in Minneapolis. She’s also co-president of Emerson’s PTA. She has been trying to organize child care pods on WhatsApp and send out surveys to find out how many people might need emergency child care. So far close to 200 families have joined her WhatsApp group to learn more about child care solutions. 

Many of the Spanish-speaking families she’s been in touch with have said they weren’t even aware that a strike was a possibility. 

“Families are not getting emails and teachers are not allowed to communicate about the strike,” Dengler said. “Most families have the closest relationship with teachers or even our parent liaison and so I think many parents are going to be very surprised on Tuesday and I think we’re going to have a lot of kids just coming to school.”