District 15 support employees allowed to strike as soon as Oct. 16
Palatine Township Elementary District 15 secretaries, nurses and other support employees have authorized their union to call a strike amid stalled contract negotiations.
An intent-to-strike notice has been filed with a state agency by the Educational Support Personnel Association union. Under state law, the 435-member local affiliated with the Illinois Education Association cannot strike until Oct. 16.
In addition to the nurses and secretaries, clerical workers, program assistants and sign-language interpreters are represented by the union. The support employees' collectively bargained contract expired June 30.
Salary is one of the sticking points in the negotiations, which are to resume in a federal mediation session Wednesday, Oct. 11. There also is a mediation session set for Oct. 18.
District 15 school board President Lisa Szczupaj said she and her colleagues are aware of the strike authorization action. She said the vote had to be "a difficult and emotional decision for our staff members."
"We will enter into negotiations sessions (Wednesday) with optimism that a contract agreement will soon be reached with fairness to our staff as well as our taxpayers," Szczupaj said in a statement Friday.
Union officials said they still want to negotiate despite the strike authorization vote.
Amy Kunz, a representative in the union's Palatine office, said the vote taken Wednesday at Winston Campus Junior High School in the village led to the intent notice being sent to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board. She declined to provide an exact vote tally.
"The membership overwhelmingly authorized a strike," Kunz said.
Under union's proposal, Kunz said, the employees would receive base pay and "step" raises based on longevity mostly totaling about 2.87 percent annually in a five-year deal. She said the average boost would be 2.87 percent in the first year with some variation, with that percentage increase consistent for all employees in years two through five.
Documents show the district is offering 1.1 percent annual raises in a four-year contract, plus new stipends for nurses qualified to complete medical reviews for individual education plan students, a new pool of overtime pay for secretaries and moving clerical workers higher in a salary scale to match program assistants.
Controversy erupted in District 15 after another school board unanimously approved a 10-year teachers contract in April 2016.