St. Paul educators to Chicago educators: ‘Your fight is our fight’

Union educators in St. Paul are standing in solidarity with the 35,000 teachers and school service workers on strike in Chicago this week.

Yesterday the St. Paul Federation of Educators sent a letter, signed by SPFE President Nick Faber, to two unions representing the striking workers. Faber’s message was simple: Your fight is our fight.

“Your fight for Chicago students – capping class size, a nurse in every school, and adequate mental health and special education supports – is our fight for Saint Paul students,” the letter said. “Your commitment to use your collective power to speak out for the common good in Chicago – creating safe and healthy communities, seeking a moratorium on charter schools, and expanding affordable housing – is our commitment in Saint Paul.”

Click here to view the full letter.

SPFE, Local 28 of the American Federation of Teachers, represents about 3,500 employees in the St. Paul Public Schools. The local has a history of activism, staging the nation’s first teacher strike in 1946.

More recently, educators in St. Paul have modeled a “common-good” approach to bargaining. Before negotiations begin, the union welcomes community members to help develop its contract proposals, a process that results in talks that transcend the usual back and forth over wages and benefits.

In its last round of negotiations, SPFE nearly went on strike over its demands for more school nurses, librarians and social workers, smaller class sizes and expanded preschool and family-engagement programs. And to achieve fully funded schools, the union called on the district to join its members in pressuring tax-exempt large nonprofits and corporate tax dodgers to pay their fair share.

Many of those demands are being echoed in Chicago by thousands of members of the Chicago Teachers Union and Service Employees International Union Local 73 on the picket line this week.

Additionally, striking educators are pushing the Chicago Public Schools to boost funding for bilingual education, and take steps to make affordable housing more accessible to educators and their students, over 16,000 of whom are homeless.

The district is pleading poverty, but Chicago educators aren’t buying it.

“Messages of austerity and scarcity are twin myths used to justify TIF projects and tax breaks for wealthy corporations and normalize the theft of dollars – not only from our public schools, but also from our communities,” Faber wrote in SPFE’s letter.

He added, “We support you, stand by you, and are proud to call you our union family.”

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