Is “efficiency” really what our students need?

View the statement from the bargaining team about SPPS filing for Mediation

SPFE Members: 

The district has decided to file for mediation for our Educational Assistant, School and Community Service Professionals, and Licensed staff contract negotiations. In a statement sent to SPPS staff Monday night they stated: 

“SPFE leadership has countered with a wage increase proposal amounting to more than $12.8 million, and other proposals costing tens of millions of dollars more. With ongoing declines in enrollment and state funding that hasn’t kept up with inflation, SPPS simply cannot afford these proposals. To make these negotiations more efficient, SPPS is requesting the assistance of the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services.”

Imagine the schools we know students and staff deserve. Our district has recently been granted over $200 million in American Rescue Plan funds. We have an opportunity to use those funds to make an investment in mental health supports, smaller class sizes, more multilingual staff, and retaining and recruiting more educators of color.

Based on our last few sessions with SPPS and the proposals they have presented, it is clear that the district’s main goal in these negotiations is to create efficiencies for Human Resources and administration. When employers talk about efficiencies, often what they really mean is shifting cost and burden onto employees, whether it’s increasing class sizes, or taking away spousal benefits for married couples who both work in SPPS, or delaying the start of health insurance for new employees. When SPPS says they want to take away contract language that they say requires too much time and effort on their behalf, what they really mean is they want to take away contract protections or shared decision-making to give themselves more power. 

Now that they have filed for mediation your bargaining team will be waiting to hear from an assigned mediator from the Bureau of Mediation Services. Once a mediator is assigned to our negotiations we will schedule dates to meet with the district and the mediator. Most likely the mediator will close negotiations to the public but your bargaining team is committed to keeping open communication with members. We will keep our Contract Action Team up-to-date on what is happening to share out at your sites. 

This week marks the 75th anniversary of the very first teachers’ strike in US history — a strike that happened right here in St. Paul.  At that time teachers fought not only for equal pay for female teachers, but also for adequate textbooks for students and repairs to crumbling buildings. We are still fighting for our members and our students to have what they need to be successful and thrive.  Member participation in upcoming actions will be critical to showing our union strength and fighting for the schools our students deserve. To help plan the next steps, join us at the membership meeting on Monday.  Watch for an email from President VanDassor on Sunday with an agenda and link to the meeting.

In Solidarity, 

Your SPFE Bargaining Team