Group Includes Cooks, Bus Drivers and Custodians Who Are Members of SEIU Local 284
The workers are fighting for better schools and better jobs for Sartell families
Sartell, Minn — ISD 748 (Sartell) school employees who are members of SEIU Local 284 overwhelmingly voted Saturday to authorize a strike if there are no improvements in their fight for better schools and better jobs in Sartell. The 83-person bargaining unit includes custodial, grounds, food service, and bus & van drivers at ISD 748 Sartell-St. Stephen School District, Sartell High School, Sartell Middle School, Pine Meadow Elementary and Oak Ridge Elementary. The group has been working under an expired contract since July 1st, 2016, and have had 6 negotiation sessions and an additional 3 mediation sessions. After a 1.5 years, employees are still facing proposals from the district that would undercut these important jobs. No date has been set for a strike and the group would have to give a 10-day notice.
“Our students deserve the best experience possible, and that means the people who work in the school need to know we are valued and that our work matters. I am proud of the work I do making healthy meals for students, but right now the district only seems to care about taking care of those higher up. Without a bus driver or custodian or cook, the school simply wouldn’t run,” said Klein. “We don’t feel like they value us at all. They will save money any way they can, even if it means hurting people who work in the school and live in the community. When they treat us like this, it shows they aren’t valuing the school, families, students and the community.”
Klein shared that the group continues to be ready to reach a deal if the district would be willing to bring a realistic offer to the table.
“We don’t expect to get everything we ask for, but we feel like the district isn’t hearing the issues that are important to families in our community that need to be resolved. All jobs in the school should be valued and treated fairly. If we are sick, we should have the same healthcare as other people who work in the school. Right now we feel like we don’t matter.”
Jesse Paggen, who has worked in the Sartell schools for 22 years as lead custodian, also shared why the school employees voted to authorize the strike.
“We aren’t doing this to be rich, we just want what is best for families in our community. Some people who do important work in our schools barely make enough to pay for gas to get to and from work. When the district undervalues the people who work in the school — cutting pay and making healthcare virtually unaffordable — it impacts students,” said Paggen. “We have been fighting for a fair contract for a year and a half when other contracts with the school are settled within months. I wish our work was treated as fairly as other people who work in the schools,” Paggen continued. “People from our community love working here and rely on these jobs to survive, yet the district is looking to take more from people who work hard for very little. I hope this helps get the district to take us serious.”
The two sides are currently in mediation because of a lack of progress.