Minneapolis students stage sit-in in solidarity with striking teachers

Temperatures are below zero in Minneapolis with rain and snow falling as teachers enter their third week on strike. Negotiations are underway at the Davis Center, where the Minneapolis Public School District has refused to provide living wages for educational support staff or agree to other demands. Outside, hundreds of teachers dance, sing and picket. “We decided to organize an occupation of the Davis Center. We are going to have students here 24/7. We are going to be here all the time. And it’s to raise awareness of the strike,” said one of the students.

Inside, dozens of students announce that they are occupying the building.

“As much media as we get, we haven’t made enough waves, or not enough waves to change the MPS” [Minneapolis Public Schools] listen.” Students are hoping an occupation will get the attention teachers need – there has been stunning silence on this massive strike from many progressive groups and the mainstream press.

Minneapolis educators are on strike for smaller class sizes, more mental health staff, higher retention and recruitment of BIPOC educators, and for higher salaries, including higher salaries for support staff who only earns $24,000 a year.

Last week, the students held two sit-ins at the Davis Center, once meeting Eric Moore, a member of the school district’s bargaining team who spent an hour running the students.

But the students have finished being despised. And they’re done talking about them.

“Our main goal is to raise awareness and destroy the narrative that MPS imposes on us. We don’t want people to speak for us. We want to speak for ourselves. We want to speak for why we are here.

They say the press demonizes their teachers and acts as if the students are being used as pawns in this workers’ struggle.

The media and the district keep saying it’s better for the kids to go back to school and demonize the teachers’ strike. But these students don’t have it. Their profession shows that they are on the side of their teachers and that the working conditions of teachers are the learning conditions of students.

Tatiana Cozzarelli

Tatiana is a former middle school teacher and currently a PhD candidate in Urban Education at CUNY.

Michael A. Bynum