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updated: 10/19/2012 12:26 AM

Huntley teachers authorize union leadership to consider strike

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Teachers in Huntley Unit District 158 have rejected the latest offer from the school board and given union leadership permission to call a strike, if needed, the co-president of the Huntley Education Association said Thursday.

Union co-president Julie McLaughlin said in an email to the Daily Herald that Wednesday's vote gave the negotiating team the ability to call a strike and that the results of the vote were "overwhelming."

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Union members also voted down an offer from the district for the second time in two months.

"We are looking for a fair contract," McLaughlin said. She would not elaborate on reasons for the union rejecting the offer or discuss sticking points in the negotiations.

The district and union, which represents about 650 teachers, reached a tentative agreement last month, but union members rejected that offer, McLaughlin said. The two sides then met last week with a mediator and verbally reached a tentative one-year agreement, which union members voted down Wednesday.

A news release sent from the district late Thursday night said "the entire board is disappointed the HEA negotiating team has twice failed to secure ratification of the agreements reached at the table," and it called for the union to reconfigure its negotiating team.

"It appears that the HEA negotiating team does not have the authority to enter into a ratifiable agreement," the news release said. "The Board respectfully requests the HEA membership send a team that has the authority to enter into an agreement and ensure ratification."

Neither side has declared an impasse in negotiations, which must occur before teachers can call a strike. When that happens, each side has seven days to submit its final proposal and related cost to the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board. The labor board then has seven days to post final offers on its website.

After another 14 days, the District 158 administration could impose its final offer and, if the union has given 10 days' notice, the teachers could then walk out.

Negotiations between the District 158 school board and the union began in July. Teachers have been working under the conditions of the previous agreement since June 30.

Last week, about 300 teachers gathered outside the district's administration building to show support to union leaders before a mediation session. Huntley teachers last went on strike in 2008.

Union leaders have said issues surrounding salaries and benefits are among the main sticking points in negotiations.
"The Huntley Education Association will continue to negotiate with the district in good faith to work toward a fair contract," according to the news release.

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