Members of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers are set to vote next month on leadership of the union in the wake of a three-week teachers strike.
Greta Callahan, president of the union's teacher chapter since May 2020, faces the same challenger she did two years ago. Alexis Mann, an English teacher at Harrison Education Center decided to run during the strike, when she found out Callahan would otherwise be unopposed.
Voting begins May 2 and runs through May 13. The new president and executive board will be seated at the member meeting on May 25.
The election comes alongside major shifts in district leadership. The school board is planning to name a interim superintendent and appoint a new board member in May.
Callahan led the union's more than 3,000 teachers into and through the strike, which ended with what she has called historic wins, including higher wages for teachers and support staff, more mental health support for students, class-size caps and protections for educators of color.
Callahan said she's running for re-election to continue "the power and momentum" among educators, students and families.
"We have never been more organized, and I am so proud of all our union has accomplished over the last two years," she said. "Having a strong MFT is the difference between Minneapolis Public Schools thriving and MPS ceasing to exist."
Mann, however, says the demands from the union further destabilized the district, which faces declining enrollment and a multimillion-dollar budget gap that district leaders say widened with the new union contracts.
The district is in the process of cutting budgets for next school year to offset $27.1 million in contract costs. The union is planning to protest those cuts at a rally on Tuesday.
Like Callahan, Mann believes the union should be a part of decisions around budget cuts. If elected, Mann also said she wants to improve transparency and communication within the union. She hopes to work with district leaders on creating an academic plan to help close the achievement gap between white students and students of color.
"I'm running because our students are in a serious crisis right now," Mann said at a news conference last week. "We want to use the power of our union to make our schools fair, equitable and fertile ground for educators and students' growth and development."
Mann initially supported the strike, she said, but began crossing the picket line when she felt the union's priorities shifted away from students and protections for educators of color.
She decided to run for president when Nafeesah Muhammad did not accept the nomination. Muhammad was a part of a group of Black educators, largely based at Patrick Henry High School, who felt the union sidelined their concerns. Muhammad was planning to leave her teaching position but has returned to the classroom.
At Mann's news conference last week, where the Minneapolis NAACP offered its endorsement, Muhammad read a grievance outlining what she said are "cruelties" by Callahan toward her and other educators of color. That letter states the educators' intention to begin the process of a recall vote, which would require the support of 35% of the union's membership. As of Monday afternoon, the online petition had 30 signatures.
In response to the complaint, Callahan released a statement that emphasized the importance of unity among union members and the "nation-leading language" in the contract that exempts teachers of color from seniority-based layoffs. Those protections go into effect in spring 2023.
"The anger of these educators is symptomatic of larger issues, and although I feel it is misdirected, every member needs to be heard," Callahan wrote in the statement. "There are many efforts to divide our union, but it is imperative that we stay united in our efforts for safe and stable schools."
The slates of candidates running with Callahan and Mann can be found on the union website at mft59.org. The site also lists those running for leadership roles for the educational support professionals chapter; Catina Neal Taylor is running unopposed for ESP chapter president.