Teachers kick off contract campaign by targeting corporate tax dodgers

“Public schools belong to everyone in a community. So everyone who’s present in that community should contribute their fair share,” Jenna Styles Spooner, a kindergarten teacher at Riverview School of Excellence said at a rally kicking off the SPFT’s contract campaign.

 

Anticipating negotiations with a school district that seems perpetually short on resources, St. Paul teachers launched their contract campaign today – Tax Day – by calling on the city’s wealthiest corporations to pay their fair share toward local public schools.

St. Paul Federation of Teachers Local 28 kicked off its contract campaign early this morning with a rally outside U.S. Bank’s operations center. Located across the Mississippi River from downtown St. Paul, the site was developed by the city using tax-increment financing – an arrangement that exempts U.S. Bank from paying about $1 million in property taxes to the St. Paul Public Schools annually, Local 28 President Denise Rodriguez told about 50 members and supporters at the rally.

SPFT President Denise Rodriguez delivers an invoice to U.S. Bank CEO Richard Davis.

“While our schools are facing a budget deficit, the CEO of US Bank earns $83,800 a day,” Rodriguez said. “When I think of what that could fund in our schools alone, that’s why we’re standing here today.”

Rodriguez and other teachers called out Wells Fargo and Ecolab for dodging their fair share in local taxes too, but big banks and corporations, they added, share responsibility for the district’s budget shortfalls with huge, tax-exempt organizations – hospitals and private colleges – that sit on massive endowments or foundations.

Nonprofit health care corporations like Allina Health and Health Partners “have $1 billion invested in stocks, hedge funds and private equity,” Rodriguez said. “Does that sound like a nonprofit to you?”

After the rally, Rodriguez and other teachers entered the operations center to deliver an invoice to U.S. Bank seeking the funds it’s avoided paying into the St. Paul Public Schools.

“I just want to say to U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo, if you disagree with any of my facts, please call me,” Rodriguez added. “I would love for my people to sit down with your people.”

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