A month after the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers Local 59 passed a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Israel that many decried as antisemitic and hostile, a resolution passed Wednesday night that could work toward repairing the harm felt by many Jewish teachers and families.
The resolution passed with 115 yes votes, 69 no votes, and 8 abstentions.
The resolution reads:
When we speak as a union, we must speak with unity and not division.
The foremost priorities for the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers are the education and physical, mental and emotional safety of all Minneapolis Public Schools students. We are especially concerned in this moment for our Jewish, Muslim, Israeli, and Palestinian students, who are deeply hurting. Our focus must remain centered on fostering a safe learning environment for all students.
While it was not MFT members’ intent, the “Israel-Palestine” resolution passed at our October 25 meeting harmed many Jewish members, students, and families while causing unnecessary division within our union. We regret this.
We are reaffirming the purpose of this union: the welfare of all members and students. We never want to cause harm to anyone, and we must stay united as we move forward.
Anne Silverman, a Jewish staff member who works at the district level as a program facilitator for special education, said this resolution is important because it centers children.
“Our union has been pretty centered on taking care of kids, and I feel like we’re moving in a different direction or intensifying in that direction,” she said. “The is kids’ lives. It feels very important to stay centered on what’s best for children.”
Andersen Middle School teacher Emily Silber said that the key was getting the resolution passed, but she was still left with unpleasantness from the experience.
“I was still pretty appalled at the level of antisemitism and pushback that we got on a pretty neutral resolution that we were trying to get through,” she said. “It wasn’t even so much about the end vote numbers, but the people speaking against our resolution were really talking about the conflict in Israel and Palestine and in Gaza right now, whereas our resolution was really trying to say we should not be talking about this as a union.”
The third paragraph of the resolution became divisive, Silverman said. One member of the union made a motion to take out the paragraph that mentioned harm caused to students and families.
“One of our group members said, ‘So it was your intent to harm?’” Silverman said. That motion failed.
Ethan Roberts, the deputy executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, which has been working with staff and families during this time, pointed out that this resolution passed with greater support than the Oct. 25 resolution did. It was also written and widely circulated that in advance of the meeting; Roberts pointed out that the Oct. 25 resolution was not on the agenda and a motion for its passage was made from the floor.
After the resolution passed, a “Resolution on Palestine” that had been previously passed by the MFT’s Education Support Professionals union was defeated by a vote of 87 no, 68 yes, and 10 abstentions. Silverman said passing that resolution would have undone the purpose of the resolution she helped to pass.
Silverman said the politicization of the union has grown.
“This kind of stuff hasn’t always gone on,” she said. “It was simple union business that we all agreed on. This feels very divisive, very political, and very different in my 28 years of being in the district.”
Silber said that there are many things she has to deal with when it comes to education in the city of Minneapolis, and resolutions like this one and the one that passed last month aren’t it.
“I could list for a long time all the things that I would hope my union is focusing on,” said Silber. “And instead, I sat on a meeting for two and a half hours [Wednesday night], talking about the crisis in the Middle East, and [Thursday morning], I’m gonna walk into a classroom with 40-plus kids in it. It’s just ridiculous.
“There are so many wonderful organizations that are intended to be platforms for these kinds of messages. And I implore union members to join them and advocate for their beliefs and get educated and I’m just asking that the union not be one of those organizations.”