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updated: 3/13/2018 6:02 PM

Bensenville teachers cancel 'unity walk,' return to bargaining table

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The promise of a new contract proposal that officials say includes "substantial raises" has led Bensenville Elementary District 2 teachers to scrap plans for a planned "unity walk."

Rather than marching outside the district headquarters on Wednesday to support their negotiating team and raise community awareness, more teachers will be at the bargaining table in hopes of reaching a contract agreement after more than a year of talks.

"We asked, and the association agreed, to replace the proposed support walk with a bargaining session on the same issues that motivated the teachers to plan the walk," Superintendent James Stelter said Tuesday.

He said as many as nine additional teachers will be at the table, bringing the total to 12 to 15, along with a professional negotiator from the state teachers association.

In an email to teachers Tuesday, union leaders said the administration saw the proposed walk as a "power move" and threatened to cancel this week's negotiating session and pull its latest contract offer.

Union leader William Winters told teachers that negotiators feared the walk would do more to delay the talks than to bring the two sides together.

"One of the goals of the support walk was to get the (administration) and board team to hear our voice as a membership," he wrote.

Union leaders said they hope having more members at the bargaining table will help officials "understand the current mindset, culture and climate of the Bensenville Education Association."

Teachers say the two biggest remaining issues are salary and insurance benefits.

Some teachers have said they still plan to gather at a nearby establishment at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday to show their anger over the lengthy negotiating process.

Stelter, however, said union leaders told him any such action would involve teachers acting on their own and not as representatives of the association.

The district serves roughly 2,100 students in three schools.

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