Teachers and staff at KIPP St. Louis High School going on strike Friday, April 19

TEACHERS AND UNION LEADERS at KIPP St. Louis High School attempted to deliver a petition to KIPP administrators on Feb. 22 calling on them to bargain in good faith. KIPP administrators refused to accept it. – Labor Tribune file photo

AFT Local 420-represented teachers and staff calling on union members for their support

St. Louis – After more than a year of negotiations with no progress, teachers and support staff at KIPP St. Louis High School are going on strike Friday, April 19, to demand a first contract.

The teachers and support staff, represented by American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Local 420, are asking fellow union members to turn out to support them from 7 -11 a.m. and 12-4 p.m. at 706 N. Jefferson Ave., St. Louis, Mo., 63103.

“We’ve been at the table for over a year now,” said Nate Gibson, an American Government teacher at KIPP and member of the negotiating team. “All we’ve been seeking are very reasonable working conditions that most public school teachers enjoy. In our last session, we put forward a proposal that accepted most of their terms, accepted most of their language. All we asked for were the basic rights that teachers take for granted in many places, and KIPP said that they could not operate a high quality charter school while giving us basic rights as employees.

“We are the people who work every day with the kids. We know what we need to do our jobs. We’re facing 50 percent or more turnover every single year and right now, thanks to the success of AFT in the public schools, we’re facing a huge staffing crisis next year” as teachers and staff at KIPP are lured to better pay and benefits at St. Louis Public Schools. “And KIPP still refuses to come to an agreement, even when we’re making the most reasonable offer. So we have no choice but to go on strike.

“It’s not our first option,” Gibson said. “It’s not the thing that we want to do. We all want to be there for the kids. But we understand too what the kids need is quality teachers in their school. And they’re not going to have quality educators and support staff in their schools if KIPP is playing this cynical game where they refuse to reach an agreement with the union for their own purposes and put the kids last, and put their teachers last.”

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