No deal in sight to end Minneapolis teachers' strike as new school week looms

MFT Union leader
Minneapolis Federation of Teachers president Greta Callahan speaks to reporters before a bargaining session with Minneapolis school district leaders on Sunday March, 13. A picketer holds a sign in the background.
Mark Zdechlik | MPR News

Officials with the Minneapolis Public Schools and Minneapolis Federation of Teachers traded proposals and counter-proposals over the weekend, but a deal to end a strike by the MFT remains elusive. 

On Sunday, groups chanted outside of MPS headquarters in north Minneapolis as both sides met in long bargaining sessions.

“We've got to get class size caps in the contract, mental health supports in the contract, we need living wages for our hourly ESPs and we need competitive pay for our license folks,” said Shaun Laden, president of the education support professionals chapter of the MFT. 

The union is also looking for raises for teachers and a more sustained effort to retain teachers of color. 

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“We are hemorrhaging educators. I keep saying this. We cannot keep the people in the building and our students need stability,” said Greta Callahan, president of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers. 

MPS leaders and board members said the proposals offered by the union this weekend “will steer the district toward long-term financial crisis,” according to a daily update posted on the district’s website. 

The district said it has offered Minneapolis teachers the same cost of living adjustment St. Paul teachers will receive after that union reached a deal with St. Paul Public Schools. 

On Friday, the district said instructional time lost during the strike will have to be made up, possibly by extending the school year. The union called any talk of extending the school year “a scare tactic” by the district.

The strike, the first one by Minneapolis teachers since 1970, started on Tuesday and has impacted around 30,000 students. 

Minneapolis students have been eligible for daily meals from the district, but food service workers are in tough contract negotiations of their own. 

Members of SEIU Local 284 have already authorized a strike, but the union has not yet filed the required 10-day notice to call one. Union leaders said negotiations ended late Friday without a deal.

“Following the overwhelming strike vote, we did see some movement from the District, but we still aren’t close to where we need to be to make up for years of underinvestment in these frontline, essential workers,” said Kelly Gibbons, executive director of SEIU Local 284, in a statement Friday evening. 

The union represents around 200 food service workers.

In the meantime, Minneapolis students, parents or caregivers can pick up a bag with one breakfast and one lunch per student each day between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the school where the student is enrolled. Pickup at another location is possible — but parents or guardians need to contact that school.