Members of Minneapolis and St. Paul’s teachers unions were part of a rally this past month protesting the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on June 27 to ban agency fees.
The teachers joined members of other Twin Cities unions in vocalizing displeasure with the decision in Janus v. AFSCME, which bars public-sector unions from charging non-union members for representing them in collective bargaining. The ruling will likely mean large losses in revenue for public-sector unions that collect millions in fees from non-members.
The statewide teachers union, Education Minnesota, responded to the decision with a press release criticizing the court for “making it harder for working people to join together in strong unions to build better lives for families and communities.”
“Janus is the culmination of decades of attacks on working people by corporations and the wealthy to rig the economy in their favor,” the statement said. “Despite their efforts, workers will continue to work in union to make our children smarter, care for our family members and make sure our communities are safe every day.”
Local union members expressed similar sentiments during the rally, which took place the afternoon after the decision. Jennifer Vaillancourt, a veteran Minneapolis teacher, said in an interview that the country needs strong public unions and that the Minneapolis teachers union works hard to ensure kids receive the best possible education.
The union works at bringing all of the teachers together to make safe spots in schools where they can share best practices, Vaillancourt said. She said membership in the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers was up this year, as the union’s executive board worked to organize before the Janus decision.
Annika Larson of the St. Paul Federation of Teachers said during the rally that her union would continue organizing together to make sure every student gets what he or she needs. She noted that her union was able to secure a commitment from St. Paul Public Schools to fund additional English-learner teachers during negotiations this past year.
Shaun Laden, president of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers’ chapter of education support professionals, said in an interview that unions serve as a counterweight to moneyed interests and to people who benefit from privatization. He said that unions help people improve their lives in a real, on-the-ground sense, noting how union workers make more than non-union workers. He added that unionized school employees have a forum for coming together and talking about high-level outcomes for students.