Is a strike going to happen?
Your bargaining team is doing absolutely everything we can to get a fair settlement without a strike. Because we are bargaining all day, every day, the situation is constantly changing. We do not want to strike, but if we have not reached a settlement before Tuesday, February 13th, we will strike.
Who is going on strike?
Members of all three of bargaining units represented by SPFT – School and Community Service Professionals, Educational Assistants, and Teachers (licensed staff, which includes school nurses, social workers, school psychologists, and others) – will be on strike starting on February 13, 2018 if we have not reached a settlement.
Why are members striking?
Our members are ready to strike because the district has not offered a contract that meets our students’ unique needs and addresses members concerns about their working conditions. We know that our students’ learning conditions are our working conditions and we cannot separate the two.
We asked the district with our first proposal, presented back in September, to partner with us to find more money for schools. However, the school district not only refused to talk about creative ways to secure funding, but they also refuse to re-examine their $521.4 million general budget to prioritize student needs, or their $31 million unrestricted fund balance.
We know that we are not meeting our students’ needs in Saint Paul, and as educators, we believe that is unacceptable. For example, the district is currently out of compliance with the state requirements for educating our English Learner students. We believe we should put our students first with the resources we have available and work together to find additional funding for our public schools. We’ll continue advocating for our students, even if that means striking.
The district can’t currently afford to fully staff all of our schools, but they must demonstrate a commitment to reallocate existing funds to address urgent student needs. This is no time for “business as usual” because our students can’t wait.
What is left on the bargaining table?
We have made progress in bargaining this week, but it is the progress we should have made with the district back in October. With a few exceptions, the only agreements we have made with the district are small policy proposals that are cost neutral.
In a good faith effort to settle, we dropped and modified a number of our proposals. The district also dropped their proposals to get us to take the currently unfunded Q Comp Performance Pay Program.
While there are some issues that are currently part of package discussions, we have not reached agreements on lower class sizes, increasing support for our English Learners, adding staff to work with our special education students, or supporting restorative practices. We also have not talked about wages this week.
What will a strike look like?
Members are still expected to report to their schools to picket with their co-workers every morning. The details of the pickets will vary from building to building and are being planned by building strike captains. Check with your school strike captain for more information.
Pickets will take place on public sidewalks in front of the buildings and members who are striking will not be allowed in buildings. Each day during the strike, there will be a large picket and/or rally at a single location during the middle portion of the day. Details about each day’s unity action will be shared by strike captains each day.
Members also have the option of volunteering at a SPFT Safe Site. These are locations designed to provide a warm, safe environment to some of our most vulnerable students who would otherwise be missing crucial services in the event of a strike. We will be releasing more information about these sites on Sunday, after the SPFT committee planning the sites meets. Stay tuned. If you want to get involved with the safe sites, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
These sites are not to be confused with the district’s planned “Kid Spaces.” The district has said Kid Spaces will not accommodate students with disabilities at those sites. Our Safe Sites are specifically intended for our most vulnerable students – including those with disabilities. The district hopes to use the offer of paid work at these Kid Space sites to encourage our members to cross the picket lines and undermine our solidarity. Building principals at Kid Space locations have been told to expect to house students in auditoriums, gymnasiums, and cafeterias.
What happens to students?
The school district has decided to close schools during the strike. Parents will need to find alternative options for their students. For our most vulnerable students, SPFT is making safe sites available (discussed above). The mayor has said that recreation centers and libraries will be open for students. Organizations like the Boys and Girls Clubs are also planning programming during the strike.
What happens to health insurance?
Any employee who works at least one day in a month will be entitled to the district’s contribution toward the cost of their benefits for that month. Member coverage will continue through the month of February. If a strike extends into March, members will be able to continue their benefits through COBRA or can purchase insurance through the health insurance exchange. Information about that option is available here.
What happens if I am on leave?
The district may not deny pay for previously approved leaves or disability benefits to members because they are on strike. However, members may not take paid sick days or other leave during a strike unless it was approved before the start of the strike.
I have more specific questions about my situation…
SPFT has a more detailed FAQ guide which we put out before the strike vote available here. If this still doesn’t answer your questions, reach out to your building strike captains, or an SPFT organizer.
How can parents get involved?
Call Board Chair Zuki Ellis (651-328-1443) and Vice Chair Steve Marchese (651-468-5440) and ask them to come to negotiations with SPFT and help us get to a settlement.
Reach out to your building strike captain and talk to them about setting up a solidarity committee. If you (or your child’s teacher) don’t know who that is, reach out to the building steward or CAT member.
Get involved in our Safe Sites. These are locations that will be staffed by SPFT members during the strike to provide care and a warm environment to some of our most vulnerable students. Email email@example.com for more information.
Are negotiations still happening over the weekend?
Absolutely. The SPFT bargaining team will be meeting all weekend with the district. There are negotiations planned Saturday and Sunday, and we are willing to meet on Monday as well. We are working to settle this contract this weekend so that we do not have to leave our classrooms.
Will updates be coming out?
We’ll put out updates following bargaining on Saturday and Sunday on our website, Facebook, and send them to personal emails. We will also update members every day during the strike with newsletters. (If you have a gmail account and you aren’t getting our emails, please make sure to check your spam folder and other email tabs.)