St. Paul teachers to vote on strike

  • Article by: MARY LYNN SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 11, 2014 - 5:49 AM

St. Paul educators will vote on Feb. 24 after union’s executive board notes “no progress” on priority issues during ongoing contract talks.

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St. Paul schools superintendent Valeria S. Silva

Photo: Joles, David, Star Tribune

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St. Paul teachers will vote Feb. 24 on whether to give their leadership permission to call a strike.

Nine months into contract negotiations, the executive board for the St. Paul Federation of Teachers decided Monday night to schedule the strike authorization vote because “no progress has been made on our priority issues,” according to the union’s website. The federation has said it would like the contract to include provisions that address growing class sizes, staffing shortages and improved access to early learning programs.

School district officials immediately released a statement saying they were “extremely disappointed” to learn about the strike vote. “This is not the news we were hoping for.”

St. Paul teachers last voted to strike in 1989 but the walkout was averted at the last minute. The most recent teacher strike was in the Crosby-­Ironton district in 2005, when 86 teachers walked off the job for eight weeks, the second-longest strike in state history.

In an internal staff newsletter, District Superintendent Valeria Silva said a strike would cancel classes.

“While St. Paul public schools believes a strike would be a poor choice for the education needs of St. Paul’s children, the teachers union has the lawful right to strike,” district officials said.

The district has argued that reducing class sizes and expanding preschool — while worthy goals — are outside the scope of negotiations.

District and union negotiators are scheduled to resume mediation on Feb. 20 and March 6, continuing talks that led to agreements on 13 issues.

If St. Paul teachers give the authority to strike, the federation will have to give a 10-day notice before a walk out. “A strike could begin at any time in the 15 days following the 10-day notice,” the federation website states.

In late January, 157 of the 334 districts tracked by Education Minnesota have reached contract agreements with their teachers.

In the Anoka-Hennepin district, teachers frustrated about the lack of progress in their contract talks have stopped doing work after hours, including grading papers they haven’t graded during the day, checking e-mails, tweaking lesson plans and voluntarily attending after-school events.

 

Staff writer Anthony Lonetree contributed to this report. Mary Lynn Smith • 612-673-4788

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