District 15 union members picket in Palatine over contract dispute
Palatine Township Elementary District 15 secretaries, nurses, program assistants and other support employees showed their displeasure over stalled contract negotiations in a Wednesday afternoon rush-hour picket off Northwest Highway in the village.
About 435 workers, whose collectively bargained contract expired June 30, are represented by the Educational Support Personnel Association union. Last week, each side blamed the other for a lack of progress in a negotiation session with a federal mediator.
More contract talks are scheduled for Thursday.
Scores of employees in the unit, which is a branch of the Illinois Education Association, held signs and wore neon union T-shirts Wednesday to show their unhappiness with the contract talks, attracting several honks of support from drivers near Northwest Highway and Hicks Road, in proximity to the district's Palatine headquarters.
Wages and benefits remain sticking points in the negotiations, said Amy Kunz, a representative from the Illinois Education Association's Palatine office.
"The purpose of the picketing was to draw attention to stalled contract negotiations," Kunz said, "and to encourage the school board to reach settlement with the union."
In a message to District 15 employees Wednesday, school board President Lisa Szczupaj said the people in the union are greatly valued.
"We understand the negotiations process can be stressful and difficult for our staff," Szczupaj said. "The board is committed to the negotiations process and will continue to bargain with the (union) leadership team until an amicable agreement is reached."
About two weeks ago, each side submitted what are loosely termed "final offers" to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, as required by state law. The union's offer is for a five-year contract in which most workers would receive an average 3 percent raise in the first year, with all getting 3 percent annual hikes in the second year and beyond. The district's offer is for a roughly 6 percent pay hike spread over four years for all support workers, with additional income for specific groups such as nurses, secretaries and special education program assistants.