Minneapolis entrusted her with its children.

But barely paid her enough to support her own.

It was the second week of the Minneapolis teachers strike, and there were tears on the picket line outside Lucy Laney Elementary.

One by one, classroom support staff stepped up to talk about the jobs they loved. The jobs with starting salaries around $24,000 a year.

"We shouldn't have to work two jobs, three jobs, four jobs just to make ends meet," said one educator who wasn't comfortable having her name in the newspaper.

The superintendent of schools, she said, gets a six-figure salary and a car allowance. She got two weeks of unpaid maternity leave with her first child and then had to return to the classroom because "otherwise I would lose my apartment," even with the extra income from her night job as a proofreader.

"Now in my 29th year" with Minneapolis Public Schools, she said, "I work for Target 30 hours a week."

Tens of millions of Americans have quit their jobs over the past year.

The Great Resignation, people called it. An exodus of the overworked and underpaid, off in search of better jobs, better pay, better benefits, better bosses.

But on picket lines and at bargaining tables across Minnesota, thousands of workers — from public defenders to public school food service workers — say they are fighting for their jobs. They just want to lose the "overworked, underpaid" part of the job description.

Minnesota taxpayers pay the salaries of both prosecutors and public defenders.

We just pay the prosecutors better.

"I was in the Navy for nine years and the Coast Guard for 13," said Scott Nokes, a part-time public defender in Glencoe, Minn. "This is the hardest job I've ever had."

Even a part-time public defender's caseload comes with hundreds and hundreds of unpaid hours of work beyond the stipend the state pays. Full-time public defenders can work for years before they earn a Minnesota prosecutor's starting salary.

"All day long, public defenders are pushing the rock up the hill," Nokes said. "The prosecutors are against you. The judges are against you. The system is against you."

He keeps pushing because his clients need someone behind them when it feels like the system is against them. Someone who wants to help them get back to their families and on with their futures.

"How we treat the most disadvantaged people in our country," Nokes said, "is a reflection of how good a country we are. How compassionate a people we are."

Understaffed, underpaid and overworked, Minnesota's public defenders were days away from a strike that could grind the criminal justice system to a standstill.

Talks continued. Because sometimes talking works.

Late Friday, the public defenders reached a tentative deal. Teamsters Local 320, representing 470 public defenders and 200 support staff, announced a contract agreement that includes pay raises and cost-of-living adjustments.

It's a similar story across the country, putting local governments and their union-backed workers increasingly at odds. As the economy rebounds from the COVID-19 pandemic, private sector salary and wage growth has exceeded salary growth for state and local government workers by the largest margin on record, according Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan research institute. Compounding the problem, Pew says, public employee wages aren't keeping pace with soaring inflation.

Food service workers appear to have talked Minneapolis Public Schools into a 24% raise over the next three years, avoiding a strike.

St. Paul teachers negotiated a two-year contract that included higher wages, smaller class sizes and more student mental health services — just as Minneapolis educators went out on strike, asking for better wages, smaller class sizes, and more mental health resources for students traumatized by two years of pandemic, protests and community trauma.

As the strike drags into its second week, school administrators say a district battered by budget shortfalls and declining enrollment simply does not have the millions of dollars it would take to do those things and pay the educational support staff what they're worth.

Back on the picket line at Lucy Laney, another educational support staffer spoke up. She's supporting six children, four of them her own, she said, and taking night classes. All on a salary of $24,000.

"I think it's really hard, living on the wage we are given," she said, voice shaking.