MPS restaurant workers ready to join strike

Photo by Cole Miska Kelly Gibbons announces SEIU will join MFT on strike

Daily picket lines continue outside Minneapolis School District (MPS) offices during the second week of the Minneapolis Teachers’ Federation (MFT) strike. The more than 4,500 striking educators found a new ally on Tuesday, when Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 284, which provides meals to MPS, announced plans to go on strike as well.

Kelly Gibbons, executive director of the local SEIU, announced the food service strike following a sit-in at district offices organized by MPS students in support of their striking teachers. “These workers have been in poverty for far too long,” Gibbons said. “And it’s been on the backs of the workers.”

A concern related to SEIU members going on strike is the lack of a solid plan in place for meal services without MPS food service employees. Gibbons mentioned that she had heard that meals would be shipped and that the SEIU was looking for ways to feed the children while they were on the picket line.

“And the children? This prevented us from [striking] for years,” Gibbons said. “Because nobody ever cared about those kids. But now [SEIU members] have to start thinking about their families too, and about their children, they don’t have the means to feed them either.

The SEIU gave the district 10 days notice of its intention to strike as required by law. Gibbons confirmed that MPS Superintendent Ed Graff had acknowledged receipt of the notice. If the MPS and SEIU fail to agree on negotiations, the strike could begin on March 28 and SEIU members would join MFT members in their daily pickets.

The district has come to some agreement in its negotiations with MFT, but many of the educator’s demands remain unfulfilled. The MPS trading team has not made a counter offer to MFT traders in the past two days.

Ma-Riah Roberson-Moody, a special education assistant at Roosevelt High School, is a member of MFT’s Education Support Professionals (ESP) bargaining team. Roberson-Moody was unable to give an estimate of how long negotiations would take and noted that the MFT negotiating team would reject the District’s current offer as it currently stands.

Roberson-Moody said the district agreed to frameworks for a few of MFT’s bargaining demands, including reducing the number of ESP classifications from 19 to four and working with MFT on ESP work hours. But this MPS hadn’t moved much on its pay offer for ESPs and hadn’t yet agreed to classroom size caps.

Roberson-Moody said another point of contention was that the district wanted agreements on ESP hours and classroom sizes to be the subject of a memorandum of understanding (MoA).

“[The MoA] is a temporary deal that could be withdrawn when it expires,” Roberson-Moody said. “We want contractual language; our members are already working many of those hours.

Photo by Cole Miska Students one block north of North High prepare to march to Davis

Students show their support

As the picket lines continued on Tuesday, a group of about 40 students gathered at North Community High School and marched together to the MPS offices at the Davis Center on West Broadway for a sit-in. Leila Sundin, a high school student from South High School, was one of the main organizers of the sit-in and mentioned that they wanted to take student-led action to counter the district’s narratives of the strike.

“[Ed Graff] demonized the actions of the teacher and said that what teachers do is not really for the students, even though what teachers do is for the students and for themselves, it is for our communities. Sundin said. “It’s really important that we come here and say ‘no, the students are behind this. It’s for our students.

The students participating in the sit-in arrived to the applause of MFT picketers who were already outside the Davis Center. The sit-in occupied the hall next to the MFT’s negotiating team preparation room for about an hour. District personnel in the building did not respond to the sit-in, and a district spokesperson had no comment when asked about the sit-in by email.

Sundin was unsure if the contract would be settled soon, but noted that while it was more difficult for the educators as the strike continued, they did not want them to settle without MFT meeting the requests.

“I want them to accept our teachers soon because they deserve it,” Sundin said. “But I don’t want our teachers to settle for less than they are worth.”

The MPS sent out a press release Tuesday evening indicating that the district has agreed to settle the contracts with the SEIU and MFT. The district promised that student food service would not cease in the event of a food service strike, but did not specify a plan to ensure service continued.

The MPS said it would meet with the SEIU “24 hours a day, night and day if necessary”, to reach an agreement,