D300 teachers union: Strike ‘may be what we have to do’
By Emily McFarlan Miller firstname.lastname@example.org October 2, 2012 8:22PM
Updated: November 4, 2012 6:10AM
CARPENTERSVILLE — No one wants to strike, Local Educators Association of District 300 President Kolleen Hanetho said this week.
And, Hanetho added, “I hope to not be where Evergreen Park is right now,” with teachers there heading to the picket lines Tuesday in a strike like the one that recently shut down Chicago Public Schools for more than a week.
“But if it comes to that, it comes to that,” she said. “It’s not what we want; but if it’s what it takes to get an appropriate learning environment for the children of District 300, that may be what we have to do.”
The union president agreed it would be “accurate” to characterize her remarks as a shift in her tone since both LEAD and Community Unit School District 300 filed in late July for mediation.
That’s come, Hanetho said, as the union has made “significant movement” during bargaining, “and we’re not seeing that same movement on the other side, and we need that movement to happen.”
She said LEAD has made significant concessions in the past two years, too: In its last one-year contract reached in spring 2011, it made $3.6 million in concessions on salary, benefits and insurance. The year before, according to Hanetho, it lost $6 million in teacher positions as the district made budget cuts.
“We have given them millions and millions of dollars over the last 10 years, and right now we’re at the point where we’ve given as much as we can. And now what needs to change is the class sizes,” she said.
“We’re still quite a distance apart.”
But the two sides do have two mediation sessions on the calendar, she said.
And Hanetho conceded, “We’re starting to see some movement on their part which was lacking in the past, but we still have quite a ways to go.”
District 300 Board of Education member Joe Stevens praised Hanetho’s decision to ask for a face-to-face meeting with the district, without a mediator, two weeks ago.
The union since has presented its package proposal to the board, and the board responded with its counter-offer last week, Stevens said. They were scheduled to meet again Tuesday night, he said.
“I think both sides have made significant movement. There’s been absolutely no talk of strike,” he said. “I’m still holding out hope and remaining optimistic that we’re going to reach a conclusion.”
Elgin District U46
Meantime, the Elgin School District U46 Board of Education approved two more contracts with its union at its meeting Monday night.
That includes a four-year contract with the secretaries of District U46 Secretarial Association (DUSA) and a five-year contract with the custodial staff of Education Support Services Organization (ESSO).
The DUSA contract will increase clerical support at most elementary and middle schools. It will freeze pay for those employees in year one, then increase that by 1.95 percent in year two and 0.5 percent of the consumer price index in the remaining years. The ESSO contract similarly will include a freeze in year one, a 4 percent bump for most employees in year two and an increase at 0.5 percent CPI after that.
U46 Superintendent Jose Torres remarked Monday that when negotiations with all six of the Elgin school district’s unions began 18 months ago, “I had fewer white hairs.”
“I want to thank our teachers for working and staying at the table, because it’s only staying at the table that we can get an agreement we both can live with,” he said. “We need to move forward with collaboration and a lot of joint work because this is our district, and we’re here together to serve our students and our community.”
The Elgin Teachers Association approved its contract with the Elgin district this spring. That leaves the District U46 Transportation Union, District U46 Educational Assistant Association and the food service employees of the Service Employees International Union still in negotiations.