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Teachers may take strike vote in one of state's largest districts

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St. Paul teachers could take another step that moves them in the direction of a work stoppage. The Pioneer Press reports the leadership of the St. Paul Federation of Teachers is expected to decide at a Monday afternoon meeting whether to put a strike vote before the union's membership.

Although contract talks began in May, FOX 9 reports the union and the district have been unable to reach an agreement on a number of issues, including class-size caps, hiring additional counselors and other classroom support paraprofessionals, and cutting back on testing. There is also no agreement on a wages and benefits package even after after state-mediated talks.

The nation's first teacher's strike was in St. Paul in 1946. At the time, the move was illegal. But it set the stage for teachers to unionize and bargain collectively.

The Monday vote by federation directors is part of a two-step process. First, the executive board will vote on whether the union membership – which according to its constitution includes teachers, educational assistants, and community service professionals – should vote. If the board decides members should indeed vote, then those members will weigh in on whether or not they will strike.

KSTP reports the union and school district apparently made progress during 12 hours of negotiations last Thursday.

A spokesman for the St. Paul school district said that while the two sides share core values, they disagree about policy and funding. Federation President Mary Cathryn Ricker said talks on a new two-year contract have been productive at times but added that only modest progress has been made on union priorities.

Under state law, the union would have to give the district 10 days' notice before striking.

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