This past Friday the Saint Paul Federation of Educators (SPFE) celebrated their 100th Anniversary. SPFE gathered with parents, community members, and other allies to reflect on the past 100 years and look forward to the future. The celebration included the unveiling of the union's new logo to reflect its recent name change.
SPFE was founded On June 18, 1918, when women teaching in Saint Paul came together to fight for smaller classes, better working conditions, and the right to organize. SPFE – founded as the Saint Paul Federation of Women Teachers – was the first teachers’ union to form in the state of Minnesota.
At the time the union was chartered, teachers’ unions were banned in Saint Paul, and union activists were denied promotions, transferred, and even fired.
A men’s local was founded in 1919. The two locals merged in 1957.
In 1946, educators in Saint Paul went on the first organized teachers strike in the United States. The 1,165 teachers and principals (they were represented by the union as well) stayed out until Dec. 27 in what they called the “strike for better schools.” The walkout drew national attention to the plight of public schools, low teacher pay and difficult working conditions. The teachers won higher wages, funding for school repairs, and free textbooks for all students.
Educators in Saint Paul also voted to strike in 1989 and 2018.
As Teacher and union member Anna Larkson described in an Op-Ed
in March 2018 describing her hopes for schools and students,
"Right now we have the possibility for change, and also the potential for false hope. Recentering public schools in our culture is not inevitable. At this moment, however, our national conversation is focused on the importance of our schools and we have to put forward a vision of the caring, safe, supportive community that our students deserve."