A teachers strike isn't inevitable, Dist. 121 leaders say
Warren Township High School District 121 officials sent a letter to the community Thursday aimed at reassuring residents that the teachers union's decision to authorize a strike doesn't mean that one is imminent.
On Wednesday, the teachers union voted to authorize its bargaining team to call a strike if a deal over a contract can't be reached. According to the union, 99.7 percent of its 350 members voted in favor, but the bargaining team has not yet declared the teachers are going to go on strike.
Teachers in the district have been working without a contract since June 30. Officials from the Warren Township High School Federation of Teachers and the district have met to negotiate 21 times, including an all-day session Thursday.
Superintendent John Ahlgrim said Thursday afternoon the day had been going well and that they are making good, steady progress.
"I think both sides are optimistic we can get a contract for them," Ahlgrim said before returning to the negotiations.
Jason Jecmen, the president of the union, did not return calls for comment Thursday. He said in a statement after the vote Wednesday night that the membership made clear the desire to conclude the lengthy negotiation process.
In the letter to the district Thursday, Ahlgrim and board President Thomas Drake wrote that just because a strike is possible does not mean it is inevitable. Ahlgrim said state law requires the teachers union to wait a minimum of 28 days to strike after officially starting the process.
Thursday's negotiation session is the first of four scheduled for January. The two sides plan to meet again on Jan. 17, Jan. 29 and Jan. 31.
Teachers in Geneva Unit District 304 went on strike for five days last month during negotiations for a new contract.