The St. Paul Federation of Teachers celebrated its 100th year on Friday night with a name change reflective of its strength and influence at home and nationally.
The union local, now known as the St. Paul Federation of Educators, is coming off an eventful year during which it pushed the state's second-largest district to the brink of a strike while pursuing the kind of broad contract changes that have fueled teacher walkouts across the country.
"You have been wearing red before it was in vogue," Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota, told union members Friday, in a reference to both St. Paul's color of choice and the National Education Association's "Red for Ed" movement.
On Friday, striking teachers in Oakland, Calif., ended a seven-day walkout with a deal they say gives them higher pay, smaller classes and more school resources, the Associated Press reported.
Oakland Education Association leaders had been in St. Paul two years ago to be trained by the federation in a negotiating strategy known as "bargaining for the common good." It calls for mobilizing not only within the union but with the community to push for better working conditions in schools and enhanced supports for students.
Those supports include additional counselors and social workers, as well as education assistants, all of whom are members of the St. Paul local and who helped inspire the recent re-branding.
On Friday, the federation also unveiled a new logo while Nick Faber, the local's president, led a rallying cry.
"We are …" he said.
"SPFE!" the audience shouted.
Also in attendance for the centennial celebration at the InterContinental St. Paul Riverfront were Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association; Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers; and Mary Cathryn Ricker, a former president of the St. Paul federation who now serves as Minnesota's education commissioner.
Ian Keith and Roy Magnuson, two past federation leaders who criticized the union a year ago for tactics they saw as overly confrontational, also were on hand Friday.
This year, the federation is expected to wield its influence again in the election of school board members. Four seats are in play, and in a recent questionnaire to candidates, the union asked how each would work to ensure that the city's largest corporations pay their "fair share" of education costs.
Candidates will begin to rally support at DFL caucuses next weekend. Those who have said they intend to seek the federation's endorsement and who have completed questionnaires published on the spft.org website, are incumbents Zuki Ellis, Steven Marchese and Mary Vanderwert, and challengers Chauntyll Allen, Jessica Kopp and Ryan Williams.