Written by Tom Steward | January 30, 2018

Ex-Union President Takes on St. Paul Federation of Teachers

The former president of the teachers’ union in St. Paul Public Schools has broken ranks with the St. Paul Federation of Teachers’ hardline leadership. In a tough rebuke to labor leaders, Ian Keith urged his 4,000 fellow St. Paul educators to join him in rejecting the union’s call to approve a strike tomorrow in a Star Tribune op-ed.

As a St. Paul teacher and former president of the St. Paul Federation of Teachers, I am opposed to my union’s divisive tactics and rhetoric directed at the leadership of our school district and at our businesses and nonprofits in St. Paul.

With new superintendent Joe Gothard and a slate of four fresh school board members, Keith believes the union has squandered an opportunity to take a constructive, rather than combative, new approach to contract negotiations.

The federation had an opportunity to work collaboratively with Gothard and the school board based on mutual respect and an understanding that all of us — teachers, the superintendent, school board members and the community — want what is best for our kids.

Instead, the federation leadership chose a premature path of confrontation, finger-pointing, fearmongering and power politics to push its agenda. They chose to vilify at least one member of the school board as well as “the district,” universities and businesses in our city.

Keith argues the union’s outdated strategy will limit its effectiveness in dealing with the fallout from the huge budget deficit, declining enrollment and other challenges facing the school district.

I will vote no on authorizing a strike and vote yes for working collaboratively and respectfully with our school board and all of the stakeholders in our community to improve our schools.

Strong-arming allies; using strike threats every bargaining year; spreading fear among teachers and the community — these tactics compromise the integrity of our union and are simply not justified in this round of negotiations. This is a year to build collaborative relationships, to work together to strengthen the fiscal health of our schools and build united communities around high expectations in each and every school. So, let’s drop the confrontational tactics, roll up our sleeves and get the job done. Do it for the kids, their families and all of the teachers and educational staff who work in our schools.

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