The teachers union in Community Unit District 300 has declared an impasse in negotiations with the district's school board, opening the door for the first teachers strike in the district in more than three decades.
In a news release, Mike Williamson, communications chair of LEAD300, said the union remains committed to the negotiations process but that a resolution is not in sight.
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"Nothing has changed about our commitment to negotiate a fair and equitable agreement," Williamson said. "But we need the Board of Education to come to the table with fairness in mind so we can complete the process soon. They don't seem to share our sense of urgency about this contract. We feel that time is running out."
Major issues holding up the agreement include class sizes, compensation and learning environment, both sides have said.
Board of education spokesman Joe Stevens said the declaration came as a surprise to board members who were in the middle of a negotiating session when contacted by the Daily Herald Monday evening. The two sides had scheduled a mediation session for Wednesday.
"The last time we met with LEAD300 we told them that we could not move without board authorization and they knew that we had planned a meeting for tonight," Stevens said. "We are disappointed that they did not tell us what's going on. ... They know that we are still negotiating and to make this declaration out of the blue. We're disappointed and shocked."
Williamson said the union's bargaining team voted Monday to declare an impasse to start the calendar rolling for a possible strike under Senate Bill 7. The impasse notice was sent to District 300 Superintendent Michael Bregy, as well as the district's attorney and the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board about 5 p.m. Monday, Williamson said. On October 14, teachers overwhelmingly gave the union authorization to call a strike if negotations continued to stall. The union said 97 percent of the teachers present at the meeting voted in favor of the authorization.
District 300 was among a number of suburban districts where teachers gave the go-ahead for a strike if necessary. Those districts included Barrington Unit District 220, District 158, Geneva Unit District 304 and Grayslake Elementary District 46.
The District 300 union and board will now have seven days to submit final offers and costs 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 administration could impose its final offer and, provided the union has given 10 days' notice, the teachers could walk out.
Williamson said the union has not yet filed an intent to strike notice.
"We are still hoping to resolve this," Williamson said. "But the board needs to know that we have participated in some serious concession bargaining and the well has run dry. We are fighting to improve education in this district."