Minneapolis. 3rd week of strike of education workers against racism and precariousness

© Left voice

For the past two weeks, teachers and professional education assistants [Educational Support Professionals, ou ESP – profession équivalent sous plusieurs aspects aux ATSEM et aux AESH en France. Ce sont des personnels, au statut très précaire, qui sont présents dans la classe avec les enseignants pour aider les élèves. Ndt.] of the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota, are on strike to raise the salaries of teachers, but especially of professional education assistants, who are very poorly paid despite their central role in supporting students. They also call for the improvement of teaching conditions, by reducing the number of students per class, but also the hiring of social workers, counselors and school psychologists to meet the needs of their students, which have increased due to the context of the pandemic. has deepened academic and social difficulties.

This strike is part of a period of unprecedented social and trade union mobilization in the United States, from the uprisings following the death of George Floyd, which took place in the same city, to the great strikes of the fall of 2021. Thus, the conflict that provoked the educational staff to oppose the management of their district goes beyond the union struggle: the mobilized staff fights for the welfare of their students. We relay the testimonies of 2 teachers involved in the movement.

(These testimonies were published on March 16 on the Left Voice news site)

Victory is possible in Minneapolis

“It’s freezing cold and more than 4,000 Minneapolis educators are on the picket line for a second week. Education Support Professionals (ESPS) are the focus of our demands.

Still, morale is high. We know our cause is right. Our demands are not only deserving of educators and students, they are also 100% actionable. Powers say there is not enough money when our state recently announced a $ 9.3 billion surplus.

Sant Pau Education Professionals (city next to Minneapolis) at the same time they were ready to strike, but at the last minute they made an impressive deal with the district. This agreement lets us know that victory is possible in Minneapolis. In fact, solidarity between districts and union sections of educators is a path to follow for the labor movement. The chances of even greater claims in future struggles are possible now more than ever. »

A struggle for precarious workers

“Minnesota has one of the worst student-educator ratios in the country. The national student-educator ratio is 430: 1, while Minnesota has a 600: 1 ratio. our schools, but they are only paid $ 24,000 a year.A large percentage of our ESPS are color educators.We ask for $ 35,000 a year to get started.

We also call for layoff protections for color educators and greater support for new racial educators. Covid-19 is also a factor, as we call for concrete measures to mitigate the spread of the virus and support educators and sick students of COVID. »

Savings that affect racial students first

“In the absence of leadership at the top, it’s up to us to draw attention to the impacts of underfunding on our schools. In 2018, the St. Paul Federation of Educators partnered with researchers to write a report entitled “Decreased funding for Minneapolis and St. Louis public schools The research found that from 2003 to 2018, actual student funding decreased by $ 3,049 in Minneapolis public schools and $ 1,610 in St. Paul’s public schools. cities host more than half of Minnesota’s black students, as well as a plurality of Latin American and Asian students, while hosting less than 1% of white students. 99% of white students in the state have only dropped by $ 770 per student. ”

“This divestiture in our students has made them lose access to the programs that students from rich, predominantly white districts take for granted: music, art, technology education, and college guidance. It has resulted in starvation wages and benefits. New York City Police Department’s budget has been increased to include thousands of dollars in premiums paid by parents of our students, while Saint Paul is trying to cancel it. “In both cities, schools have been a low priority for elected officials, except when a communication operation is needed.”

“While our schools are suffering from budget cuts, Minnesota’s wealthy nonprofit is raising money and channeling it into grants and funding for private schools that offer even higher compensation. Poor and voiceless elect for parents School administrators and board members have never been able to challenge corporate tax rates and team up with educators to demand fair funding for state spending. it has led to the point that educators need to regain power for the community by going on strike. ”

Educational assistants, at the forefront of the pandemic and now despised

“If the Covid-19 pandemic has shown us anything, it is how essential public schools and their staff are for the functioning of capitalism and society as a whole. Without the low-paid work and love of our dedicated educational assistants and licensed staff, no other job is possible.

At the beginning of this school year, as we called for occupational safety and health measures against the virus, the praise received by education assistants in 2020 turned into contempt. As a result, teaching assistants are leaving the profession and the shortage has led to hundreds of open and unfilled vacancies in both cities.

Schools have been forced to resume standardized testing [tests permettant d’évaluer les progrès sociaux, émotionnels et scolaires des élèves de tout le pays] as if nothing had changed. Administrators talked about test scores rather than student well-being. School board members rejected demands from parents whose schools were threatened with closure and consolidation, calling them “the loudest voices in the room.” The lessons of the pandemic have been buried under the weight of the present. »

The working conditions of the teachers are the learning conditions of the students

“The current strike of the Minneapolis Union of Teachers and Educational Assistants and the 2020 strike in Saint Paul in the same sector focus on fundamental truths: that the status quo was not good enough, that students are not assets that are they market and that the working conditions of the teaching staff are the learning conditions of the students. Decent wages and schools with psychological support for students and reduced classes are the bare minimum we need to build a better world for our students and help our communities thrive. »

“While our demands certainly fall within the scope of collective bargaining, we believe that we, as teachers, must demand even greater and broader demands that meet the needs of our communities in an era of declining empire and climate catastrophe. ”

Decent housing for our students!

“In Minneapolis and St. Paul, working-class families and racialized families are increasingly moving out of the city due to rising cost of living due to gentrification. The fight against gentrification, such as rent control, should be a priority for educational staff. If our students do not have a stable home, it is unrealistic to expect them to come to class with the mental disposition to learn. »

Let’s stand in solidarity with the environmental struggles of our students

“Starting in 2019, students from all over the world launched the Friday for the future climate action strike. Minneapolis and Saint Paul students joined the thousands of young people in the United States active in this struggle. As teachers, we should join them in demanding climate action, a transformative Green New Deal, and an eco-socialist economy. Schools need to become climate centers where community members learn how to nourish the soil, grow food, protect water, and organize community power. We must prepare for future environmental disasters by learning the skills to withstand the accumulated crises. Finally, we need to create learnings that allow community members of all ages to dream, create, and thrive. Ultimately, we need to prepare our communities and our youth for the world that will be and can be. »

Money for education, not for repression!

“The time has come to build the schools that the students of our cities deserve and that the district authorities respect the communities in which they live outside our walls. The aftermath of the George Floyd uprising has exposed the rot and inadequacy of Minneapolis, which has invested in policing over prevention, in policing our schools. These years we have seen our partners and our neighbors realize the power of our solidarity. With this solidarity and challenge, we can build prosperous community schools that will elevate future generations. »

Jessica Garraway worked as a substitute teacher for six years. For more than 10 years, she has been an activist and writer on topics such as wealth inequality, racism, LGBT struggles, feminism, work, and environmental issues. He actively participated in the fight to prevent the construction of what would have been the first oil sands mine in the United States, the Keystone Pipelines, Dakota Access and Line 3. He also participated in the fight against police brutality and reorganization. of public safety in the wake of the George Floyd uprising. A member of the far-left organization DSA (Social Democrat of America) and a trade unionist, he is trying to build a strong trade union movement that can deal with climate crises. Follow Jessica on Twitter @Deeplyjessica.

Jeff Garcia is a special education teacher and job activist in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Born and raised in New York City, Jeff comes from a Puerto Rican family and attended McAlester College. He began teaching in 2019 and was an active voice in the St. Paul Educators Federation strike. Paul of 2020. He hopes to represent new educators, people of color, and the community to build a strong movement for all of St. Paul’s children.

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