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Message from Executive Director Kelly Gibbons on how districts play games with Unemployment Insurance.

January 17, 2024

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"Our Union fought so hard to ensure Education Support Professionals (ESPs) received Unemployment Insurance like almost all other workers in Minnesota because we know how valuable our work really is for our students. Whether paras, bus drivers, food service workers, or other jobs, our members are the glue that keeps our schools running. Yet every summer before this law change, they had to scramble to pay their bills for multiple months, despite similar jobs like construction workers having the safety net to allow them to continue their work after a seasonal lack of work. We saw that over 18,000 Minnesotans were able to return to our schools and students this fall because of this new law passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. Walz last year, making them eligible for this safety net. The recent cost report from the state showed that it came in way under the costs projected by school districts when they tried to block this bill. The state put aside money for districts to cover this year, and the fund is currently paid for many years into the future. This was a smart policy that has been a massive success on all fronts. Yet some district leaders in highly-paid positions are playing games with school employees and trying to say this cost (which they didn't pay one cent for this year or years into the future) means they can't give fair raises or increase benefits for frontline, essential school employees. These games must stop, and districts need to settle fair contracts for school staff. School employees need to be respected, protected, and paid, not told there is no money for raises and benefits after the legislature invested record-setting amounts during this last session. Where did all that money go? Those at the top, whose pay seems never to be impacted no matter what happens, need to stop hoarding the money that should be going to the staff who directly support our students. We aren't going to let districts try to undermine the new UI law, and we aren't going to let them force bad contracts on the staff who make our schools run. Enough is enough. Our Union is ready to fight for the schools our students deserve, and that means making sure the staff who make our schools run have basic benefits like UI and fair contracts that allow us to stay in these jobs and care for our families. No more spin from school district's time for action!"