Judge orders District 15 nurses, aides back to work
Palatine Township Elementary District 15 officials expect all striking nurses and special education classroom aides back at work Wednesday after a judge prohibited them from participating in a support employees strike.
District 15 Superintendent Scott Thompson said many of the 168 nurses and classroom aides returned to their jobs soon after Cook County Judge Neil Cohen issued his ruling Tuesday morning.
Cohen ruled in favor of a district complaint that sought injunctive relief and a temporary restraining order to prohibit the "essential" Educational Support Personnel Association union employees from participating in the strike that began Monday. The classroom aides and nurses were ordered back to work "immediately."
Secretaries, sign language interpreters, nurses and classroom aides were among the 454 support workers to strike at one of the state's largest elementary districts, covering all or part of Palatine, Rolling Meadows, Hoffman Estates, Inverness, South Barrington, Arlington Heights and Schaumburg.
Court documents filed Monday by the district state the 153 classroom aides and 15 nurses forced back to work provide health and safety services to early childhood, elementary and junior high students with severe medical conditions and disabilities. Cohen agreed there was a "clear and present danger" to 374 of the most vulnerable students ages 3 to 14.
Thompson said he does not expect the judge's decision to negatively affect negotiations that are to resume Wednesday in the presence of a federal mediator.
"This (complaint) was purely to keep kids safe at school," he said. "And we were appreciative that this order allowed for these critical people to come to our schools and keep our kids safe. I am confident negotiations are going to go forward."
Illinois Education Association spokeswoman Bridget Shanahan said the negotiations have taken an "unfortunate" turn for the district's lower-paid employees. Some jobs start at $11 an hour, union officials said.
"We are very disappointed by the judge's decision in court and plan to fight the ruling to protect our members' right to legally strike and join the picket line," Shanahan said.
The remaining 286 strikers will stay on the picket line until an agreement is reached, she added. Employees have been picketing at Winston Campus elementary and junior high schools in Palatine since the walkout started.
Wages, sick leave and retirement incentives are among the issues in dispute. The support employees have been without a contract since July 1. Negotiations on a new deal began in February.
Schools remain open for the district's roughly 12,800 students, in part, because the teachers' contract disallows them from honoring the support employees' picket lines. The instructors received a controversial 10-year deal in 2016.