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St. Francis, Minnesota, April 26, 2023 – The office professional members of Education Minnesota St. Francis voted Wednesday to authorize a strike against St. Francis Area Schools.
Eighty-six percent of the members voted to strike, after more than half of the membership voted down a tentative agreement with the district. The bargaining unit includes 21 members who work in the district as attendance staff, clerks, registrars, due process clerks, counselor’s office staff, copy room staff and more.
The office professionals are a bargaining unit within the districtwide union of Education Minnesota St. Francis, which also contains separate units of teachers, preschool teachers, education assistants, bus drivers and nutrition services staff.
“Our members turned down the tentative agreement and voted to authorize the strike because what the district has offered is not enough to make up for years of being underpaid and undervalued,” said Andrea Powers, an office professional staff and union negotiator. “Our group felt there was nothing left to do but strike.”
“It is fitting we took our strike vote on Administrative Professionals Day, a day where people make sure to honor those who work in jobs like ours. Instead, we took this day to say, we are worth more,” said Powers.
Wages for the office professionals in St. Francis currently range from $15.53 to $18.32. The district’s last offer would have given them raises of $1-2 an hour over the two-year contract. The other major bargaining proposal was around health insurance. The office professionals, the staff who make the lowest wages in the school, pay the most for health insurance premiums and have not received any employer insurance increases in more than a decade. The district offered less than $100 to offset health insurance costs.
“We have staff with family insurance who take home $300-400 a month, which is $10,000 a year. That is not a living wage to sustain their families on,” said Nancy Brunn, an office professional and negotiator. “The district is sitting on millions of dollars in their fund reserve and are poised to get a historic amount of funding from the state – and they have employees making less than our high school students make at their after-school jobs. That isn’t right.”
The earliest date the union could file their intent to strike with the Bureau of Mediation Services is May 6. State law requires the union to give the district at least 10 days’ notice before the first day of the strike, making the first potential strike date May 19, if necessary.
The office professionals’ current contract expired June 30, 2022. The office professionals have met with the district for five negotiations sessions, filed for mediation in March, and have had one mediation session facilitated by the BMS.
“We look forward to continuing our discussions with the district as we look toward this union action in late May,” said Brunn. “We hope it doesn’t come to a strike, but we are ready to stand together until we settle a contract that respects, honors and values our work.”
“The executive committee of Education Minnesota St. Francis unanimously supported our office professional members taking their strike authorization vote,” said Ryan Fiereck, who serves as local president of all six bargaining units within Education Minnesota St. Francis. “We stand in solidarity with our important and essential school staff.”
About Education Minnesota
Education Minnesota is the voice for professional educators and students. Education Minnesota’s members include teachers and education support professionals in Minnesota’s public school districts, faculty members at Minnesota’s community and technical colleges and University of Minnesota campuses in Duluth and Crookston, retired educators and student teachers. Education Minnesota is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and AFL-CIO.