College of DuPage's faculty union takes first step toward possible strike

College of DuPage's full-time faculty members have approved strike procedures and language as their union tries to negotiate a new contract with the Glen Ellyn school's board of trustees.

The faculty members, represented by the College of DuPage Faculty Association, "overwhelmingly" approved the vote Thursday after their negotiating team and COD officials met for the first time with a federal mediator on Tuesday.

"From the beginning of these negotiations, we have maintained a commitment to do what is best for our students and the COD community," Shannon Toler, president of the faculty association, said in a statement released Friday.

"A strike is the last thing that we want, and we will do everything in our power to avoid that," Toler said. "But in order to continue to keep COD an affordable, quality local option for our community, we need to value and respect our faculty members."

COD officials released a statement saying they're "encouraged by the improved dialogue" following the involvement of the mediator. They said a counterproposal from the school was offered during the session.

COD President Brian Caputo said the counterproposal was offered in good faith to meet the college's shared goal of student success.

"As we work toward ensuring that all students receive a high-quality education at an affordable price, it is vitally important that our counterproposal was carefully crafted to balance the varying requests of both parties," Caputo said in the statement.

The strike procedure and language vote is a necessary requirement ahead of a strike authorization vote, which, if passed, would give the bargaining team the ability to declare a strike, union officials said.

"We are willing to do whatever it takes to protect our students' best interests," Toler said. "Our working conditions are our students' learning conditions. We will continue to fight for better for them and for our community."

Toler said the faculty association plans to continue to bargain with the board of trustees in the hopes of reaching a fair contract as soon as possible.

COD board Chairman Frank Napolitano said in a statement that school officials believe it's time to get a new contract in place.

"To achieve a new contract, both sides need to move expeditiously and in good faith," Napolitano said. "For COD, we must carefully balance our fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers of District 502, while ensuring that we reach an agreement that is fair and equitable to our valued full-time faculty members."

COD's 304 full-time faculty members have been working without a contract since a multiyear pact expired on Aug. 14. Negotiations on a new deal started in March but have gone slowly through 12 sessions.

Members of the faculty association will wear red when they march at 10 a.m. Monday in the Naperville Labor Day parade.

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