The results of a vote overwhelmingly favoring a teachers strike in Community Unit District 300 may not play a big role in future negotiating sessions between the district's school board and its teachers union, representatives from both negotiating teams said.
Despite 97 percent of voters Sunday approving a strike, union and school board leaders say there is still room to move in the ongoing contract dispute and that neither side is ready to abandon talks.
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"Neither side has said anything about an impasse," said Mike Williamson, communications chairman for LEAD 300, the teacher's union representing more than 1,200 educators in the district. "That's not where we are at. We are still engaged in the process and will continue to work toward making progress."
Williamson did say the vote sent a clear reminder to the school board.
"I am certainly hopeful things change because we are not seeing the kind of movement we would like," Williamson said. "They are asking us to make concessions that we can't possibly make. But I am sure they feel like we are not going where they want, either. This should be a wake-up to them that our membership stands behind us and people are really serious about this. We need a contract that our membership will ratify, and the vote was a resounding message that what we are seeing out there now we are not ready to ratify."
Though 97 percent of teachers who voted Sunday supported the action, a strike is not imminent. Before a strike can occur, one or the other side has to declare an impasse. Once that happens, each side has seven days to submit its final proposal and its cost to the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board. The labor board then has seven days to post the final offers on its website. After another 14 days, the administration could impose its final offer and, if the union has given 10 days notice, the teachers then could walk out.
The next negotiating session is Tuesday.
School board spokesman Joe Stevens said he had not yet spoken with the district's negotiating team or attorney but did say the vote likely would have no effect on Tuesday's negotiation session with the mediator.
"My gut feeling is it won't. I see it as an understandable step they felt they needed to take," Stevens said. "I am not saying I agree or disagree with the vote, but we will continue to negotiate in good faith and hope they will, too. We have been putting some interesting things on the table, and I am hopeful we can continue to make progress."
The two sides are negotiating a multiyear successor agreement to the one-year deal that expired on June 30. Teachers have been working under the conditions of that expired agreement.