"We are not replaceable."
Educators, students, and nurses in the Twin Cities are standing up and speaking out. Also, news from Governor Walz about payments for essential workers!
Happy new year from us at Workday Minnesota! It’s been a few weeks since we’ve been in your inbox, and workers have been making moves. 🎉 Thank you for reading and subscribing!
“We make school happen!” Educators demand change
Twelve school workers have died due to COVID-19 during the current school year, bringing the total to 20 over the pandemic. Three students have died.
In the midst of contract negotiations and a COVID-19 surge, educators and education support professionals (ESPs) from public schools in the Twin Cities are continuing to gather support for change within the school districts, including better pay and protection.
Specifically, 1,200 workers with the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers’ ESP chapter are demanding a starting salary of $35,000. After ten negotiation sessions and two mediation sessions, the union’s board unanimously voted on Wednesday to authorize a strike authorization vote, which means they now have the authority to call for membership to vote to strike.
On Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, MFT held a rally, energizing the community to demand a living wage for ESPs. Minneapolis educator and MFT member Marcia Howard urged teachers to use their power and stand up for their colleagues. “For somebody to be called to this work, they should be given a salary commensurate with how difficult this work actually is,” said Howard. “We are paying these folks poverty wages.”
👀 Watch: part 1 of the rally here, and part 2 of the rally here.
🎥 Watch: KARE11’s coverage of the rally. The Star Tribune also covered it.
Meanwhile, teachers with the St. Paul Federation of Educators are urging remote learning, which the school board has been resisting in favor of keeping schools as open as possible while cutting support for students.
📣 “Are we denying the voices of youth?” St. Paul students walk out in protest of conditions
On Tuesday, students in St. Paul public schools walked out of class to protest conditions in their schools, demanding more action and protection.
Jerome Treadwell, a Highland Park Senior High School student and Executive Director of Minnesota Teen Activists and Angela Nguyen, a student at Harding Senior High School and Student Council President, gave statements. Their demands, listed below, include a two-week distance learning period to prepare schools for modified operations:
Create a metric with SPFE to temporarily shift to remote learning for individual schools that takes into account transportation availability, staffing and substitute numbers, and COVID-19 positive cases at the site.
Provide KN95 masks for staff and students and provide surgical masks immediately until more KN95s are available.
Provide additional PCR tests for all staff to test twice a week regardless of vaccination status. And explore options to create a faster turnaround for staff to receive test results.
Provide antigen or PCR tests for all students to test weekly.
Provide each school with a sufficient supply of take-home Covid-19 tests to provide to any student exhibiting cold or flu symptoms and any student, staff member, or school volunteer who requests one.
Continue contact tracing and notifying individuals who have been a close contact and quarantine according to MDH guidelines.
For individuals who test positive for COVID-19, maintain the 10 day isolation period or require two negative antigen tests to return to school/work sooner.
Allow students to create a modified daily schedule to meet the needs of all students in the safest, most educationally sound manner.
Students expressed support for SPFE and recognized that the current situation is unsustainable for many, especially students in working families with high-risk family members. You can watch students from Murray Middle School walk out here and you can sign a petition here.
🏥 “We are not replaceable.” Nurses give testimony at MNA town hall
“Staff and patients are treated as numbers and dollar signs,” said Ali Marcanti, who has been a nurse for six and a half years at United Hospital. “These patients that are on my unit are sicker than they ever have been and yet focus still from the moment a patient enters the hospital is, how can we get this patient discharged…your loved one’s body isn’t even cold before they’re pushing more patients on nurses.”
Nurses with the Minnesota Nurses Association held a virtual town hall with legislators where they spoke out about their trauma, lean management and staffing models, and an interstate compact with the hospital administrations that would allow nurses to travel from other states to work here, which they believe would undermine workers in the state.
Adiam Midekssa has worked at Abbott Northwestern Hospital as a nurse for seven years. “Recently, I was suspended on the spot for not taking an unsafe assignment,” said Midekssa. “The assignment required me to take more patients than I normally would have. All of them required assistance…a couple were on isolation which requires more time to get ready to go into rooms to help the patient. I requested that the assignment be modified so I could provide safe patient care, but I was denied that and sent home.”
Sue Schroeder works in child and adolescent mental health at Abbott Northwestern and is a licensed family therapist. “Since February 2021, there have been 33 assaults of nurses and support staff on the four mental health care units,” said Schroeder. “These assaults are due to patient violence during behavioral crises. Seventeen of these injuries were sustained by nurses, 16 of these injuries were sustained by support staff.” Injured workers have been on extended medical leave and are suffering from lingering effects from the assaults, including the fear of never being able to recover.
“We are training more than enough nursing students to meet the need here in Minnesota, but CEOs have made our hospitals into a place that pushes nurses away from the bedside to serve the bottom line,” said MNA President Mary Turner.
Over 600 nurses with MNA have filed a petition at Mayo Clinic facilities across the state, calling for wage fairness and bonuses.
🎥 Watch: The New York Times Opinion Video on what’s really behind the national staffing crisis: corporate greed. 💰
“There’s not a shortage of nurses. There’s just a shortage of nurses willing to work under those conditions.”
💸 “Walz Checks” and frontline worker pay
After announcing the Local Jobs and Projects Plan this week, Governor Walz announced his budget proposal at Minneapolis Community and Technical College on Thursday. The budget proposes direct payments to Minnesotans, as well as a whopping $1 billion for frontline workers, four times the original $250 million set aside for them. Over 600,000 workers will receive payments of $1,500.
After the Frontline Worker Pay Working Group failed to compromise on their recommendations, I had my doubts. And I have my questions. How do you feel about receiving a $1,500 check?
What we’re reading…
Minnesota Reformer‘s Max Nesterak (@maxnesterak) reports on the 3,500 workers represented by AFSCME Locals 34 and 2822 and their plan to strike.
By Peter Cole (@ProfPeterCole) from The Conversation on King, who was assassinated while organizing with sanitation workers, and his deep connection to unions:
King understood racial equality was inextricably linked to economics. He asked, “What good does it do to be able to eat at a lunch counter if you can’t buy a hamburger?”
🎁 Watch: The MN Building Trades shared the spirit through volunteering over the holidays.
To the mountain top we go. We are each other’s harvest.