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Metro teachers show solidarity with striking Minneapolis educators

By Meredith Aby-Keirstead |
March 19, 2022
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Rally in support of striking Minneapolis educators
Rally in support of striking Minneapolis educators (Fight Back! News/staff)

Minneapolis, MN - On March 17 thousands of striking educators with MFT 59 and community members rallied on both sides of Lake Street, stretched out for about a mile, in Minneapolis in a mega picket outside Adult Education South and Transition Plus at the MPS Center for Adult Learning. After two hours of enthusiastic picketing and dancing, educators from other metro cities got on the MFT sound truck to send messages of solidarity to strikers.

Adi Penugonda, a high school social studies teacher and a member of Dakota County United Educators, started off the program, “Our message today is clear! Minneapolis educators do not stand alone. The underfunding of classrooms, the gutting of public schools and the exploitation of ESPs [education support professionals] and support staff is something all of us see every day, whether we work in South Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Richfield, Bloomington or Apple Valley.”

One of the first speakers was Jeff Garcia, who teaches sixth grade special education at Parkway Montessori Middle School in Saint Paul. The Saint Paul Federation of Educators went on strike two years ago and this year settled their contract and won a substantial wage increase for ESPs and a cap on class sizes. Garcia gave the strikers a message of solidarity and told them that they would win like their sibling district across the Mississippi. 

Jon Plotz addressed the crowd next. Plotz is a language arts teacher at Anoka High School, a negotiator for his union - Anoka Hennepin Education Minnesota Local 7007 - and a parent of a Minneapolis Waite Park Elementary student. He called out to educators, “We stand with MFT because we know that this is not just a fight for district priorities, it’s a fight for state priorities. In 1970, because MFT went on strike, you forced legislators to change the labor laws and expanded collective bargaining rights in our whole state. In 1970, because MFT went on strike, you forced legislators to change state education funding forever and helped inspire the ‘Minnesota Miracle’ of significant state investment in our children’s education. And today, in 2022, MFT is forcing state legislators to see the results of not fully funding our schools, so that those legislators will allocate some of their $9 billion surplus to close the unfunded mandate gaps and actually help all our kids the way they deserve!”

Mari Hernandez, a former Minneapolis Public Schools ESP also spoke. Hernandez is currently an American Indian Education specialist for the Elk River School District. She is also a member of MIRAC (MN Immigrant Rights Action Committee) which organized a car caravan last weekend to show solidarity from the Latinx community with the teachers on strike. She encouraged strikers to hold strong, “This strike is the most important lesson teachers can instill in their students: To stand up for yourselves! To know your worth! To know your power! And when the boss tells you no, stand up! Fight back!”

Speakers also included Jeff Garcia, a special education with Saint Paul Federation of Educators, Cory Cochrane, a Richfield social studies teacher, and Anne Keirstead, a math teacher at Irondale High School.

The next MFT action will be on Friday at the Governor’s mansion to pressure Minnesota Governor Tim Walz to use the state surplus to fund public education.

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