Leaders of the Minneapolis teachers union have taken the rare step of filing an unfair labor practice charge against Minneapolis Public Schools, saying the district has refused to negotiate crucial safety measures for educators returning to in-person teaching.

It's been more than two decades since the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and Education Support Professionals filed such a charge with the Public Employment Relations Board, according to the union.

The charge, filed Monday, states that "the district has yet to negotiate over the critical terms and conditions of employment involved in a safe return to in-person teaching and learning."

The union is also asserting that the district revoked previously granted accommodations that allowed educators to work from home. The union says such a "unilateral change" to the collective bargaining agreements represents a refusal to bargain.

The district said Tuesday that it disagrees with the charges and that leaders have collaborated with the union on reopening plans.

"Numerous schools across the country have successfully opened and provided in-person learning safely for students," the district said. "Because of the strength and brilliance of MPS educators, we can do the same."

It has 14 days to respond to the filing, and the union has one week to submit its position statement. Next steps could include mediation efforts and an investigation by the Public Employment Relations Board.

At the Jan. 12 school board meeting, Superintendent Ed Graff said the district is committed to collaborating with union leaders.

Gov. Tim Walz announced in mid-December that elementary schools could reopen as soon as Jan. 18, and many districts have already brought some of their youngest students back into the classroom.

Minneapolis' reopening plan, approved by the school board last week, allows preschoolers and kindergartners to return to school buildings on Feb. 8. First- and second-graders could come back on Feb. 10, followed by students in grades three through five on Feb. 22. Families will still have the option to keep their child enrolled in distance learning.

This week, the Minneapolis union also filed a separate grievance on behalf of educators who are at high risk of serious COVID-19 complications who have been denied accommodations to work from home. In addition, many teachers are also pursuing potential appeals of reassignments to teach a different grade or switch classes for in-person learning, said Greta Callahan, the union's president.

For weeks, the union has pushed back against district in-person learning plans and called for more safety measures and vaccinations for teachers.

Mara Klecker • 612-673-4440