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What’s a Strike Fund? (And How You Can Help.)

Labor strikes are rare these days, so here's a refresher on the concept of a strike fund as Minneapolis teachers hit the picket lines.

MFT 59|

Striking teachers outside Roosevelt High School in south Minneapolis.

You don't need to worry about Ed Graff's personal finances. The Minneapolis Public Schools superintendent will continue to collect his $230,000 salary as the district's 4,000-plus teachers strike, in part, to raise the base pay of education support professionals (ESPs) from $24,000 to $35,000.

Dubbed Red for Ed, a national 2018 strike wave that began in West Virginia reignited union fervor among educators, in particular. MPS teachers, who hadn't gone on strike since 1970, walked off the job Tuesday in pursuit of better wages—especially for ESPs—as well as smaller class sizes and increased mental health support. (Minnesota Reformer has a nice breakdown of how far apart the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and the district are when it comes to pay.)

Labor is just awakening from a decades-long slumber, so you're forgiven if you need a refresher on the finer points of striking. Like the strike fund.

During the strike, some educators will need to tap into the union's cash reserves to pay for everyday expenses. A portion of member dues keep the fund stocked year-round as a precaution, but during these striking times the union asks for additional community support. Unlike some unions, MFT 59 doesn't issue strike pay—these teachers are putting their full livelihoods on the line.

"The decision to strike and go without pay is a significant choice for many of our members. So far we have been out on the line without pay for four days and counting," says kindergarten teacher Clara Dockter. "About one-third of our members are ESPs, and most of them are paid poverty wages—one of our union's key bargaining proposals is a living wage for ESPs."

Members who need assistance access the strike fund through an online application, Dockter says. If approved, they can receive gift cards for food and gas, as well as help with rent, mortgages, and utilities.

You can donate here.

Can't help boost the fund but still wanna show solidarity? Dockter suggests joining one of the picket lines that form daily (7:30-10 a.m.) outside most Minneapolis schools, or one of the city-wide afternoon rallies (check MFT 59's Facebook page for locations). "It is incredibly encouraging for members to picket alongside community members; it reminds members that this strike is about all of us in Minneapolis," Dockter says. Donations of hand warmers, snacks, and homemade picket signs are always encouraged, she says.

A much louder form of support will take the stage Sunday in Minneapolis. Featuring local hip-hop star Nur-D and Racket faves VIAL, the Solidarity Rocks fundraiser will go down starting at 5 p.m. at the Hook & Ladder Theater. Also performing: Kokou Kah, Muja Messiah, RiGBY, and DJ Jacques. Tickets—$20-$50—will directly benefit MFT 59's strike fund.

"When we don’t support our teachers in what they need, we all suffer for it. The future suffers for it," Nur-D says. "Our teachers have been to hell and back the last few years, taking so much more crap than they ever should have to."

As negotiations appear deadlocked heading into week two of the strike, the rapper says lending his support was a no-brainer.

"If I can use what little platform I have to help support them I’m their time of need, I’m gonna do it," Nur-D says. "'Nuff said."

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