District 300 teachers authorize a strike
By Janelle Walker For The Courier-News October 14, 2012 4:18PM
Hampshire Middle School students file into the lunchroom on the first day of classes Monday. August 13, 2012 | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 16, 2012 6:01AM
CARPENTERSVILLE — By a margin of 97 percent in favor, the Local Educators Association of District 300 — the teachers union — ratified a resolution Sunday to authorize a strike.
Results were reported after much of the 1,300-member teachers union of Community Unit School District 300 met at the Dundee-Crown High School field house in Carpentersville Sunday.
Following an update of the issues and negotiations — which have been ongoing since November — the union members were asked to vote, explained Michael Williamson, the union’s public relations chair.
The two sides have been negotiating through a mediator since late July.
“We are taking an authorization to strike vote. They are telling the bargaining team if they back us,” on the negotiations, Williamson said.
If approved by the union members, a positive vote means the negotiation team can call a strike, he said. It does not mean the union will strike Monday, if at all, he added.
“They are authorizing the idea of a strike, should negotiations collapse,” Williamson said.
The LEAD 300 negotiation team is slated to meet with the District 300 school board Tuesday night, he added.
“We believe it was time we got that vote … should that step become necessary,” Williamson said.
LEAD 300 officials believe its been nearly 40 years since a teacher’s strike in District 300. The current leadership had to call retired members to check out that date, Williamson said. There was an authorization vote in the late 1980s, he said, but adding that a strike never occurred.
School Board spokesman Joe Stevens said he was not surprised that a vote was called for. “It is a tactic that is used, but we will continue negotiations,” Stevens said. “Neither side has brought up the idea of an impasse. I am optimistic.”
At the top of the union’s issues is working conditions — which also means learning conditions for the students, Williamson said.
“The big scary one … is the working environment and class sizes. Its is our belief that our working conditions are the student’s learning conditions. If I have 45 students in an honors class at a high school level — which I did last year — that is the learning environment as well as my working environment,” said Williamson. He teaches AP English courses at Dundee-Crown.
There is also a concern about what he called “bullying and intimidation” by administrators to coerce teachers into volunteering additional time after school. “They feel harassed into doing things,” above and beyond their normal contractual obligations, Williamson said. While most teachers are more than willing to volunteer, when it becomes mandatory it is no longer volunteerism, he said.
Teacher pay is also at issue, Williamson said. Of 26 area school districts, District 300 comes in second-to-last in teacher pay, coming in just ahead of West Aurora, Williamson said. LEAD 300 members did make concessions on pay and benefits in the last contract to help retain teachers, he said.
It was hard to judge the union member’s attitudes during the general meeting and following the vote, said Charlie Brieger, the union rep for Carpentersville Middle School.
“People were glad to find out some information,” Brieger said.
“Most are hopeful that good things will result,” from whatever Sunday’s outcome ends up being, he added.