Workers rally as negotiations resume in Palatine District 15
Hundreds stood through heavy rains Sunday morning in a show of support for striking workers in Palatine Township Elementary District 15, just before negotiations aimed at ending their weeklong walkout were set to resume.
About 454 members of the Educational Support Personnel Association went on strike Oct. 16 after eight months of talks on a new contract failed to produce a deal. The union's members -- nurses, classroom aides, clerical staff and others -- had been working without a contract since July 1.
A crowd of about 500 union members and their supporters rallied in a parking lot near the site of the negotiations Sunday, chanting for a fair deal and cheering speeches from union organizers. Democratic gubernatorial candidates state Sen. Daniel Biss and Chris Kennedy also took part in the rally.
Wages, sick leave and retirement incentives are among the issues in dispute. School has continued throughout the strike, in part because the district's teachers are contractually required to cross the picket lines.
Among those who stood through Sunday's downpour for the event was Marla DeNatale, a special education program assistant at Hunting Ridge Elementary School in Palatine. She was one of 168 striking workers ordered back on the job by a Cook County judge last week.
"I'm concerned that the talks are taking this long," she said. "The board (of education) says they value us, but they're not acting like they value us."
Although she returned to work under court order, DeNatale said the district canceled her health insurance coverage last week.
"I hope that the district and the board of education will see that the community is backing us and that we deserve a fair and equitable wage," she said.
Sunday's talks are the first between the district and union negotiators since Wednesday. Bridget Shanahan, spokeswoman for the Illinois Education Association, said some progress was made Wednesday.
"We're hoping this can end today," she added.
• Daily Herald staff photographer Gilbert R. Boucher II contributed to this story