Anoka-Hennepin teachers union postpones talk of strike authorization vote

Anoka Hennepin Education Minnesota has postponed talk of a strike authorization vote after progress in contract negotiations with District 11, according to union leaders.

After its third mediation session with the district Feb. 27, the union also suspended work to rule, a measure enacted in late January that has teachers stop all work outside of the duty day, the seven hours and 40 minutes during the school day when teachers are required to work by contract.

“We still have work to do, but the progress on Thursday was promising,” said Julie Blaha, president of AHEM.

“Both sides made movement, and we made progress toward a mutually acceptable agreement,” said Paul Cady, general counsel for the district and its lead negotiator.

The groups will meet for their fourth mediation session the week of March 10, during the district’s spring break.

AHEM’s representative assembly and executive board will meet March 17 to discuss next steps after the session. If the union is dissatisfied by the progress, leaders will discuss a strike authorization vote at that time, according to Blaha.

Collective bargaining for the 2013-2015 contract started back in May, and until this week, the district’s offers have remained “virtually unchanged,” according to the union.

Since entering mediation in January, neither the district nor the union will reveal the specifics of current offers.

According to AHEM’s negotiations blog, before the most recent mediation session, teachers called for a 2.5 percent increase in the salary schedule each of the next two years and the retention of current benefits.

When Blaha addressed the school board Feb. 24, she called the teachers’ offers affordable under the district’s own budget assumptions, especially with increased funding from the Legislature and fat fund balances.

According to Education Minnesota, 43 percent of the 331 contracts the organization tracks statewide were still unsettled this week. Those that have settled have seen a 2 percent raise for teachers each year on average, not including increases for seniority or education.

Currently, District 11 teachers’ salaries range from $37,000 to $80,000.

Olivia Koester is at [email protected]