Home Minnesota Educator Local ESP chapters make gains at the bargaining table

Local ESP chapters make gains at the bargaining table

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After historic investments by the Legislature during the 2023 session, Education Minnesota advised local unions to build momentum as they headed into contract negotiations. Under the unifying campaign, “We’re Worth More,” we encouraged members to bargain boldly—and our ESP locals rose to the challenge.

In the middle of a continued educator shortage that is impacting education positions from certified teachers to paraprofessionals to bus drivers and everyone in between, local education support professional chapters across the state have come together and successfully secured significant wins for their local members. Some examples are shared below:

New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva

Through years of building capacity and strategic organizing, the ESP chapter of New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva (NRHEG) was able to secure a contract that makes them more equitable with other hourly workers in the district. Their contract doubles the number of paid holidays—they now have six paid holidays instead of three. This contract also includes a $1.20/hour pay increase each year.

NRHEG ESP local leader Jennifer Classon spoke about how union training, specifically the Collective Bargaining and Organizing Conference (CBOC), helped their members become stronger negotiators. She shared how the local had ideas for what they wanted out of a contract but were not sure how to approach bargaining. “Knowing what we wanted was one thing … how to get there was another,” she said. “Then the opportunity came for our negotiating team to attend the CBOC. We learned so much … our takeaway was to go big; so that’s what we decided to do.”

Classon spoke about how member engagement and solidarity led to their success. “To be a successful negotiating team, (we must) be a united front, go after what we deserve, and never give up.”

East Grand Forks

East Grand Forks bus drivers secured a strong contract that has a total package value of 21%. Their agreement includes:

  • A $2.50/hour pay increase in year one and a $1.50/hour increase in year two.
  • $100 increase each year for their HRA contributions.
  • Additional $20/week for perfect attendance, with a carve-out protecting employees who need to be gone for a health condition requiring regular doctor visits.
  • Access to retirement benefits during their second year of employment.
  • $500 recruitment bonus for employees who bring in new bus drivers.


Ogilvie ESPs negotiated a contract that improves wages and working conditions. In addition to a 6.4% wage increase in year one and a 4.8% increase in year two, they won:

  • Higher pay increases for top salary steps, where most people are hired.
  • A 49% insurance increase for nine-month employees and a 19% increase for 12-month employees.
  • The district now covers the cost of the ParaPro assessment.
  • Increase to boiler license and night shift pay.
  • Mandatory participation in the district insurance committee.
  • Dedicated time to review a student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP), including any mid-year changes, prior to working with the student.
  • Juneteenth as a paid holiday.

While pay and contracts for Minnesota ESPs still have a long way to go, local affiliates have worked hard and stood in solidarity with each other to advocate for the gains they deserve. By continuing to work together, we can continue to create more equitable contracts for every public school employee.

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