Dist. 15 parents raise concerns about nurses walking picket lines again
Some Palatine Township Elementary District 15 parents are expressing concern now that school nurses are allowed to be off the job and back on picket lines with other striking support employees.
Special education classroom aides and the nurses resumed picketing Wednesday, a day after Cook County Judge Neil Cohen denied a motion filed by District 15 lawyers to prevent those Education Support Personnel Association union members from striking.
Cohen issued an order Oct. 17 that removed the 168 nurses and classroom aides from the strike. Thursday is the ninth day of the walkout for the 454 secretaries, clerical workers, nurses and classroom aides in the local affiliated with the Illinois Education Association.
Negotiations overseen by a federal mediator are to resume Friday morning. The last unsuccessful bargaining session covered about 14 hours and ended early Monday.
Palatine resident Jenny Niemi Novak was among the parents voicing frustration with the strike because she kept her second-grade son, Gunnar, at home Wednesday. Gunnar has Type 1 diabetes and is dependent on insulin. She said she was uncomfortable with his being at Pleasant Hill Elementary School without a nurse present.
Novak, an economics teacher at New Trier Township High School in Wilmette who supports the striking employees, criticized the district for what she said has been a burden placed on parents of children with health concerns and special needs.
"I would be very happy with some sort of compromise negotiation," she said. "Just get it done quickly so that these kids don't have to be stuck in the middle."
However, District 15 resident Len Green said the 168 nurses and classroom assistants' return to the picket lines has deprived children of care to which they are entitled.
"Using a strike to rile up emotions and cause some irrational and ill-informed reactions represents a strategy to impose one party's demands on the other, not to negotiate as best you can," said Green, a 26-year Palatine resident whose four children attended District 15 schools.
District 15 spokeswoman Morgan Delack said several substitute nurses and two from the headquarters went to schools that needed them Wednesday. She said the support employees decided to "walk out on students who rely on them."
Illinois Education Association spokeswoman Bridget Shanahan said the workers have the legal right to strike and the district has an obligation to provide services for all students.
According to the latest public document, District 15 was offering a five-year contract with a 1.85 percent increase in each of the first two years, and 1.85 percent to 2.25 percent annually for the three-year balance to coincide with the applicable tax cap.
The union was seeking a 2.5 percent annual wage hike in each year of a five-year deal. The union also has sought continuation of a $9,000-per-employee retirement benefit.
Under the previous deal, pay ranged from $11.30 an hour to $37.76 per hour, depending on the job and years of employment. Other compensation included full benefits for working 5½ hours per day and a roughly 10 percent district-paid contribution to each employee's pension plan.
Talks on a new deal began in February. The employees have been without a contract since July 1.