This morning, the Supreme Court ruled against public sector unions in the case Janus vs. AFSCME Council 31. This decision is a direct attack on our ability to bargain collectively and advocate for our students. It is designed to bankrupt our union by taking away our ability to collect a fee from non-members for our work negotiating their contracts and representing them.
This decision makes it more challenging for unions to operate, but it doesn’t mean we are going anywhere. Throughout our 100 year history as a union, educators in Saint Paul have advocated tirelessly for strong public schools, excellent educational opportunities for all of our students, and an end to racial disparities. A Supreme Court decision is not going to change our mission for the next hundred years.
As long as there have been public schools in this country, educators have been organizing to improve our public schools.
Here in Saint Paul, before collective bargaining for public employees was even guaranteed in Minnesota, SPFT members walked out of classes in the first organized teachers strike in the country in 1946. They defied the city of Saint Paul, the state of Minnesota, and even our national labor parter to fight for better schools for students. And they won.
These educators knew what SPFT members still know today: we don’t win stronger public schools or better working conditions because of a benevolent boss or government. Instead, we win by organizing and fighting back and standing together.
Standing together is how we got more supports for our English Learners and students enrolled in special education services and class size caps in this last round of negotiations. Collective action is how we will get adequate supports for student mental health needs and the full funding our schools need in the future. And organizing is how our union will survive for the next one hundred years.
Attacks on educators are attacks on our public schools, our students, and our community. Know that in the face of these attacks we will continue to defend our public schools because we believe all of our students, regardless of their race, gender, religion, orientation, ability, or immigration status deserve a high-quality education.
Collectively, as a union, we have the power and no government body can take that away from us.