Teachers Have The Power In Minneapolis Public Schools | Crooked Media
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March 18, 2022
What A Day
Teachers Have The Power In Minneapolis Public Schools

In This Episode

  • Teachers in the Minneapolis Public School district are in the second week of their strike, led by The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers Local 59. Tequila Laramee, an associate educator who has been with Minneapolis Public Schools for ten years, joins us to discuss what she and the union are advocating for.
  • At least 130 survivors have been rescued from the theater in Mariupol that had been serving as a shelter for up to 1,300 people when it was bombed by Russian air forces. A Russian court has extended the detention of WNBA player Brittney Griner until May 19, and state department officials say that have had no access to her so far.
  • And in headlines: Washington state’s governor signed a measure into law that prohibits legal action against anyone seeking an abortion, President Biden announced a new White House COVID-19 response coordinator, and Selena’s family plans to release a posthumous Selena album.


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Gideon Resnick: It’s Friday, March 18th. I’m Gideon Resnick.


Tre’vell Anderson: And I’m Tre’vell Anderson, and this is What A Day, where we’re not taking a position on the debate over daylight savings to avoid offending either the moon or the sun.


Gideon Resnick: Yes, we love these celestial bodies equally. Honestly, I wish they were both up at all times.


Tre’vell Anderson: Listen, don’t make us choose, please and thank you.


Gideon Resnick: On today’s show, the ongoing teacher strike in Minneapolis. Plus President Biden announced a new White House COVID-19 response coordinator.


Tre’vell Anderson: But first, a quick update on the Russia-Ukraine war. This is as of our recording last night at 9:30 p.m. Eastern. Spoiler alert Russia is still Russia’ing as their invasion of Ukraine continues for a third week. We briefly mentioned on yesterday’s show the Drama Theater of Mariupol that was bombed by Russian air forces. That theater had been serving as a shelter for up to 1,300 people when it was bombed, according to one member of Ukraine’s parliament, Serhiy Taruta. We still don’t know the extent of casualties, but there was a makeshift bomb shelter in the theater that seemed to hold. At least 130 survivors were rescued from the rubble yesterday, but the recovery process has been slow as shelling continues. Taruta told a Ukrainian TV station quote, “People are clearing away the rubble themselves. There is no rescue operation because all the services that are supposed to rescue people, to treat them, to bury them, these services no longer exist.”.


Gideon Resnick: Wow.


Tre’vell Anderson: Russia, of course, is denying that it carried out any attack in Mariupol. A spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry said yesterday quote, “Our armed forces don’t bomb cities. Everyone is well aware of this.”


Gideon Resnick: Yes, and neither of us host a morning news podcast either.


Tre’vell Anderson: And it’s interesting that she would say that because, according to a statement by the Mariupol government themselves, between 50 and 100 Russian missiles and artillery shells have been hitting the city every single day, and at least 80% of the city’s residential buildings have been destroyed. That said, there are some reports out there that Russia’s advance into the country is slowing, but the violence is still continuing.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, to that point, Russian troops reportedly shelled the city of Chernihiv on Thursday, killing a number of people, including a U.S. citizen. And then separate strikes reportedly killed at least 23 people in Kharkiv. The UN said that over 700 civilians have been killed in Ukraine, but that the actual number was likely higher. So on Wednesday, as we talked about on yesterday’s show, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed Congress via video. Tre’vell, are there any updates on the US’s response?


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes. On Thursday, the House voted 424-8 to strip Russia of its preferential trade status with the United States. The bill, if passed by the Senate, would allow the United States to impose higher tariffs on Russian goods. Trade experts, however, have said that the move carries mainly symbolic weight and would have a limited economic effect compared to other sanctions that have already been imposed. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said yesterday he was concerned that China may be considering directly assisting Russia. President Biden is expected to speak to their president today. Blinken also warned that Moscow might be preparing to use chemical weapons as they grow, in his words, “more desperate.” Now, ironically or not, Russia called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting for today to discuss its allegations that the U.S. is helping Ukraine develop biological weapons. Now, the UN has said it has no evidence of that, and both countries have denied the claims, but we know Russia loves disinformation-misinformation campaign.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, yikes. And then still mixed up in this ever-evolving story is the fate of the WNBA player Brittney Griner, who has been detained in Russia. Do we have any updates on that?


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. So as a reminder, she’s being held on drug charges for allegedly having vape cartridges with hashish oil in them, and that could carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. She’s been detained since February 17th, so that’s over a month now. And on Thursday, a Russian court extended her detention to May 19. State Department officials confirmed yesterday that they have had no access to Griner despite consistently requesting it. But we have little details other than that, as relevant government officials cite privacy concerns limiting what they can say.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it’s scary situation as well. Meanwhile, in an ongoing story in the U.S., teachers in the Minneapolis Public School District are on strike for their 10th day yesterday. And the last time educators in the city went on strike was over 50 years ago and, according to MPR—with an M—that strike was extremely effective. It led to the passage of the Public Employment Labor Relations Act, which legalized the collective bargaining for public workers in the state. Now, more than 4,000 educators are on strike, including teachers and educational support professionals, closing classrooms for over 30,000.


Tre’vell Anderson: That’s a lot. So how did we get here? How did they get here, and what are they looking for?


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. So the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers Local 59 is leading this effort, and the strike really started last week following failed negotiations between the district and the union. The union has said that they want caps on class sizes. They want better wages, more mental health resources for students, among some other things. And on the issue of wages specifically, again—this is from NPR— Minneapolis teachers make an average of $14,000 a year less than teachers in neighboring St. Paul, and they want education support professionals to make $35,000 a year starting salary instead of $24,000. Earlier this month, in fact, St. Paul educators averted a strike after reaching a deal that included some of the same asks that Minneapolis teachers have. Now, the superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools has said that he agrees staff should be paid more, but that the money just isn’t there, citing falling enrollment numbers exacerbated in part by the pandemic. On Wednesday, I spoke with Tequila Laramee. She is an associate educator, considered a support professional, who has been with Minneapolis Public Schools for 10 years. She grew up in North Minneapolis and was named Minnesota’s ESP of the Year just a few months ago. Here’s what she had to say when I asked about what she and the union are looking for:


Tequila Laramee: We’ve been looking for safe and stable schools, and to me, what that means is one, a livable wage, not only for our education support professionals, but also the [unclear] staff as well, the retention of educators of color. I grew up in Minneapolis Public Schools district, and I don’t remember seeing any educators that look like me and being an educator in an urban community right now, I see the importance of it, right, he connections that I make with our students and the connections they make back to me and being able to understand the community they grow up in, it’s very important for them to see educators of color within the school. Mental health support, I teach and grow up also in an urban community where it’s not the best neighborhoods, murders happen and a lot of violence is happening daily, which is in our students’ back and front yard. You know what I mean? Like little kids getting shot by stray bullets. This is their family, this is in their front yards and their backyards. Then they have to come to school. It’s not OK that they can’t get the help that they need, that they deserve at school or at home.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. She went on to say this about the work that she was personally juggling:


Tequila Laramee: I want a livable wage, definitely. I work my Minneapolis job and I also work another job, and I have like two jobs within our union. So that’s like four jobs, right? Do I attend every single job, every single day? Absolutely not. But between each day, I’m working at least two of those jobs. I want to come home or, you know, get off work and know that I’m not going to another job. I have like so many meetings and I have like, not like a nervous breakdown, but like when I don’t have a meeting one day or have to go into another job like my mind is frantic because I’m like, Am I missing work right now? Am I missing another job right now? Like, I don’t know what to do with myself when I get to get off work and just have the whole day, you know, have the rest of the day. And when I say, get off work, I’m working until like five o’clock because I work at the school also. I want a livable wage where I can work one job and not have a mental breakdown because I constantly checking my calendar thinking I’m missing work or another job.


Tre’vell Anderson: Wow. So how has the community been reacting to all of this?


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it seems like there’s a lot of support. For one thing, the union representing food service workers for the district filed an “intent to strike” of their own, saying that they would stop working in 10 days if they could not reach an agreement. Laramee said that a lot of restaurants are bringing coffee and food to people on the picket line, and that support overall has been strong. But she says she is really missing being in the classroom.


Tequila Laramee: I miss my students. We don’t want to be on strike, you what I mean? We want to be in the classroom with our students. So I brought the idea like, let’s make a video and send it to the families whose numbers that we personally have on our phone. So we made a video. It was snowing like two days ago so we make the video in the snow, telling our students that, We miss you guys so much, like we’re out here fighting for you guys and we’re going to be out here holding the line until the end.


Tre’vell Anderson: We will keep following this and the negotiations as they develop. We also have our eyes on a developing strike planned among faculty members at Howard University, who also say they are under-resourced and under compensated. More on all of this very soon, but that is the latest for now.


Gideon Resnick: Let’s get to some headlines.


[sung] Headlines.


Tre’vell Anderson: More states are making it clear that they do not want to sit at the same table as Texas when it comes to reproductive rights. Yesterday, Washington state’s governor Jay Inslee signed a measure into law that prohibits legal action against anyone seeking an abortion and anyone who aids them. This action was taken just days after lawmakers in the neighboring state of Idaho passed a law that bans abortions after six weeks and allows family members to sue anyone connected to an abortion. While Inslee was signing the bill into law, he said this:


[clip of Gov. Jay Inslee] This is a perilous time for the ability of people to have the freedom of choice.


Tre’vell Anderson: The new protective law goes into effect starting in June. This is a major win for pro-choice advocates and more generally, people who respect the separation between state and human body. Abortion rights groups say this will protect people and medical providers from any prosecution for simply seeking medical treatment. Washington’s Legislature also said that people seeking abortions who are in Idaho and any other states where it is barred will be welcome to travel to Washington to have the procedures done.


Gideon Resnick: President Biden announced yesterday that White House COVID response coordinator Jeffrey Zients will be leaving his post in April after serving in the role for over a year. His replacement will be the current dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, Dr. Ashish Jha, who has graciously come on our show a few times, which by proxy makes us preeminent public health experts. Dr. Jha made it clear that he plans to keep up the pressure against COVID in his new role, tweeting quote, “We are not done. We are very likely to see more surges of infections. We may see more variants.”—Not a fan of any of that. Meanwhile, across the pond, a more contagious Omicron sub-variant is ripping through Western Europe in wake of many countries easing their COVID restrictions. Over the past two weeks, for example, cases have gone up by about 25% across the EU, and some countries like Germany and Austria are reaching record levels of caseloads. While this isn’t a cause for panic yet here in the U.S., it is a cause to heed Dr. Jha’s warnings. Springtime may be in the air, and the COVID cases are lower for now, but it is entirely possible that we could soon face a second Omicron wave of our own—ah, boy.


Tre’vell Anderson: That’s why I’m still wearing my mask honey, OK? Y’all not going to catch me slipping. Grammy Award-winning singer Selena is coming out with new music, 27 years after her tragic death. The Tejano music star’s family announced yesterday that they plan to release a posthumous Selena album with Warner Music Group. In an interview, Selena’s father said that the album will include 13 songs. Three of them will be new versions of songs Selena has previously released, and at least one will feature an altered version of the late singer’s voice. If you’re wondering how the family was able to pull that off, Selena’s brother took her vocals from when she was 13 years old and digitally altered them to sound the way she did in her 20s—something that’s apparently really easy to do, according to musicologists. I’m guessing it’s like the reverse of the technology that gave us Alvin and the Chipmunks, you know? Now, Selena’s father said of the altered voice quote, “if you listen to it, she sounds on this recording like she did right before she passed away.” While there’s no official release date for the album, it’s expected to be out sometime next month and will feature artwork and new musical arrangements by her siblings.


Gideon Resnick: Listen, if I had siblings, I wonder if there’s anything I said or did that could be digitally altered and preserved in this way, because in a way it is a compliment. But it’s also strange.


Tre’vell Anderson: I mean, you’ve got a whole podcast. We can do something with your voice, you know?


Gideon Resnick: Exactly, do the reverse and make me sound 13. That would be fun. Following the temporary closure of nearly 850 McDonald’s locations across Russia, a Russian burger chain named Uncle Vanya’s has filed a suspicious trademark application for a new logo. We use the word “new” loosely here, maybe a better word is thrifted. The design is literally the signature yellow McDonald’s arches turned 90 degrees with a line added to resemble the Cyrillic letter ‘B’, all against a red background. Now, as to why they would be clearly ripping off the most famous hamburger purveyor in the entire world, McDonald’s temporarily closed its restaurants in Russia last week in protest of the invasion of Ukraine. With reports of people waiting hours in line before the closures, as well as McDonald’s items being resold online for exorbitant prices—that Big Mac is not going to stay fresh for too long. And all signs point to Russia being completely OK with the IP theft. The trademark application appeared shortly after Russian officials indicated that they would not move to protect the patents of companies linked to countries that are deemed hostile to Russia, while a top government official indicated to the Russian parliament last week that Uncle Vanya’s should take control of the abandoned McDonald’s. While taking control of an abandoned McDonald’s is what every person dreams of since birth—ideally one with a ball pit—we do not condone it in this specific case.


Tre’vell Anderson: We don’t, but I need to know, Gideon, how much would you pay for some resold nuggets?


Gideon Resnick: What’s, how long am I wait—? Like what—? There needs to be other parameters for when were they made, when were they ordered? We talking yesterday’s nuggets? The answer then is not a lot. What about you?


Tre’vell Anderson: I don’t want no kind of McDonald’s nothing, honey. OK?6


Gideon Resnick: OK. All right, that’s fair enough. It’s probably the right answer. Those are the headlines. We’ll be back after some ads.


[ad break]


Gideon Resnick: It’s Friday WAD squad, and today we are doing a segment called No Context Bad Vibes.


[deep distorted voice] No context, bad vibes.


Gideon Resnick: Yes. Take a listen to today’s clip.


[clip of Nancy Pelosi] But in sorrow and fear, that’s when saints can appear, to drive out those old snakes once again, and they struggle for us to be free from the psycho in this human family. Ireland’s sorrow and pain is now the Ukraine, and St Patrick’s name is now Zelensky.


Gideon Resnick: OK, they sound confused, and they’re being careful.


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m confused, too, honey. I don’t get it.


Gideon Resnick: Like, they went from the really terrible fork clicking noise to just general confusion very quickly.


Tre’vell Anderson: They’re like, Do we clap? Do we laugh? I’m not sure.


Gideon Resnick: I’m not sure either. That was, of course, Nancy Pelosi at the White House’s annual Friends of Ireland luncheon yesterday, reading a part of an original poem that was emailed to her by—who else?—but U2 frontman and self-styled humanitarian Bono. What are poems after all, if not U2 songs without guitars? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has reportedly attended almost every U2 concert in the D.C. area since at least 2006, chose to read Bono’s poem while introducing the main act of the luncheon, the Irish dancing group Riverdance, all but overwhelming the early afternoon crowd with artistic expression, as we heard. So Tre’vell, what are your thoughts on this clip?


Tre’vell Anderson: Is this America’s Got Talent, Gideon? We’ve got poetry. We’ve got Riverdance. I don’t know. It feels like a variety show.


Gideon Resnick: It is. It clearly is. And we are the winners. None of the contestants are winners. It’s we, the audience that are winners. I’m wondering how often this particular exchange has happened, like Bono being like, I’m writing a poem and it’s time to email it to my friend, who is Nancy Pelosi?


Tre’vell Anderson: I just want to know why she thought it was a good idea. Like, did she tell him, Hey, I have this speech that I’m doing in front of our Friends of Ireland, girl, I need something to spice it up. Help me out.


Gideon Resnick: Right.


Tre’vell Anderson: And he was like, No problem. I could do that.


Gideon Resnick: Or was this a private correspondence that she was trying to flaunt a little bit and be like, Look, I’m reading this from my friend?


Tre’vell Anderson: She was trying the name drop is what you’re saying.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And in that case, maybe that’s a little rude to Bono. I don’t know.


Tre’vell Anderson: I mean, he deserves whatever because he put that album on all of our phones. I don’t know if you remember.


Gideon Resnick: Of course, I remember.


Tre’vell Anderson: And like, I’m still trying to get it off. Like, Come on now.


Gideon Resnick: Of course I remember, and this will soon be uploaded there as well. That’ll be great. That was No Context Bad Vibes.


[deep distorted voice] Mo context, bad vibes.


Gideon Resnick: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, have some Chicken BcNuggets and tell your friends to listen.


Tre’vell Anderson: And if you are into reading, and not just the Bono poems that don’t make it to Nancy Pelosi’s inbox like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Tre’vell Anderson.


Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.


[together] And justice for River Dance!


[together] Yeah.


Tre’vell Anderson: That’s all we got.


Gideon Resnick: They were in person. They showed up. You know, maybe prioritize them a little bit. That’s all I’m saying.


Tre’vell Anderson: I mean, sure.


Gideon Resnick: We don’t know whether to be positive or negative or neutral. What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me, Gideon Resnick. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.