First ever teachers strike happened in St. Paul 65 years ago

8:42 PM, Sep 10, 2012   |    comments
Photo courtesy Minnesota Historical Society
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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- While all eyes are on Chicago teachers the Nation's very first teachers strike actually happened right here in Minnesota.

In November of 1946 more than 1,100 St. Paul teachers walked the picket line after their demands for more pay and better working conditions went unheard by the city.

The five week walkout was unprecedented and illegal at the time. But Mary Cathryn Ricker, current president of St. Paul Federation of Teachers, said that strike paved the way for labor unions as we know it today.

"In 1946 teachers went on strike because they didn't have access to enough text books and sure enough we're in 2012 and Chicago teachers are saying one of our negotiating conditions is that we have enough textbooks on the first day of school to give to every child and so there are some startling parallels," she said.

After months of failed negotiations Chicago teachers say they just had no other choice. The core issues are: pay raises and health care, the teacher evaluation system and the recall policy for laid-off teachers. Union leaders and school officials started talking again Monday morning.

As talks continue in Chicago Ricker said she is thankful for the teachers who were brave enough to walk the line.

"There is not a working condition today I have that wasn't fought for by those women and men who came before me," she said.

Ricker said her union has sent one organizer down to Chicago. The Minneapolis Federation of teachers is considering it too. The American Federation of Teachers is asking all teachers nationwide to show their solidarity on Wednesday by wearing red.

(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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