Contract impasse could lead to teachers strike in Addison Dist. 4

 
 
Updated 10/16/2019 6:00 PM

Teachers in Addison Elementary District 4 filed a 10-day intent to strike notice Wednesday that could lead to the cancellation of classes for more than 4,000 students as early as Oct. 24, union officials said.

But the co-president of the Addison Teachers' Association, Allison Andrikokus, stressed the union's main goal is to get back to the bargaining table with the school board.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We care about our Addison community ... and we're really focused on finding common ground," she said.

The 327 members of the teachers union voted overwhelmingly last week to authorize their bargaining team to call a strike after contract talks broke down. The school board has declared an impasse, saying the union rejected its "last best offer" that guaranteed 3% annual pay increases for each of the next five years.

The two sides began talks in January and have had more than a half-dozen sessions with a federal mediator since June 5. They have been unable to reach agreement on issues that include salaries, health insurance, retirement benefits and professional development and collaboration time.

They have not been at the bargaining table since Oct. 7 and no new sessions have been scheduled as of Wednesday evening. Each side blames the other for the lack of progress.

Teachers are working on a contract that expired in June.

The Addison Teachers' Association represents teachers, speech pathologists, media specialists, social workers and psychologists in the district with seven elementary schools, an early learning center and a junior high.

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The strike authorization vote "protects our right to use our collective voice to advocate for our students and our members," Andrikokus said in a written statement. "We need to be able to keep high quality teachers in this district. Over the last five years, we've lost about 23 teachers a year. They come here, they learn, we train them and they leave."

Students suffer as a result, she said, because "they are unable to build long-lasting relationships with their educators."

She said teachers in neighboring Elmhurst, Lombard, Villa Park and Bensenville are better paid.

"We are going to continue to lose high-quality educators unless we become competitive. Investing in our teachers means you're investing in your students and your community," Andrikokus said.

She said the union wants to reach an agreement, "but instead of working with us at the bargaining table, the board of education is bullying us in public and on social media."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The 10-day intent to strike notice the union filed Wednesday is a legal requirement in advance of any job action. It must be filed with the district, the superintendent and the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board.

Superintendent John Langton did not respond to a phone message Wednesday, but in a statement on the district's website, officials said the two sides are at an impasse "because the ATA failed to provide a substantive offer" at the Oct. 7 meeting.

"Nonetheless, the board of education remains ready and willing to begin bargaining again, when the ATA makes an offer with real movement that breaks the current impasse," according to the web post.

Both sides have posted their most recent contract offers on the state's Educational Labor Relations Board website at www2.illinois.gov/sites/elrb/Pages/FinalOffers.aspx.

In that posting, the school board says the two sides have reached tentative agreements on additional sick days, educational advancement increases and greater extra duty stipends for the first three years of the proposed five-year pact.

They remain far apart on pocketbook issues. The district, for example, is offering 3% raises for each of the proposed contract's five years. The union wants 5.25% for this school year, and 5%, 4.75%, 4.25% and 4.25% increases in the next four.

Andrikokus said the union has since presented another offer to the board.

The district says it raised its offer from 2% for each of five years, but the union balked at significantly reducing its requests.

"The ATA has failed to respond adequately to the district's substantial concessions on outstanding economic issues, including salary increases," the district says in its web posting.

The union, meanwhile, says the district's per-student investment in students and teachers ranks 42nd of 42 DuPage County districts, while it maintains the highest educational surplus of any elementary district in the county.

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