Naperville teachers pushing for 'fair, rapid settlement' in contract negotiations
With a potential strike looming amid contract negotiations, Naperville Unit District 203 and its teachers union are pushing to reach an agreement days before the start of the school year.
The Naperville Unit Education Association held a rally Monday ahead of the school board meeting, hoping to demonstrate united support for a "fair, rapid settlement to this crisis," President Dan Iverson said. Talks are set to continue between the two sides Tuesday and, if needed, Wednesday.
"We are committed to working with the NUEA to reach a fair and fiscally responsible multiyear contract agreement that serves the best interests of all stakeholders -- students, parents, educators and the taxpayer community," district officials said in a statement after the most recent bargaining session Friday.
The union has filed an intent-to-strike notice with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board. Its membership voted "overwhelmingly" last week to authorize a strike, which could be initiated as early as Aug. 25, Iverson said.
A third-party error delayed the posting of the union's contract, pushing back the timing of when teachers could legally hit the picket line, he said, noting proposals must be publicly available for 14 days.
That means teachers will be reporting to school when classes resume Thursday, regardless of whether a deal has been reached, Iverson said.
"We would never plan to do something that's illegal," he said. "We're trying to be as open and transparent with the community as we can based on what we think is fair and a reasonable settlement, and why we're not quite there yet."
While negotiations have been ongoing since January, the bargaining teams have been working with a mediator since June to resolve disagreements related to compensation and parental and family leave. Iverson called Friday's session "productive," saying progress was made on the topic of parental and family leave for the first time since talks began.
"While some details need to be ironed out, we are encouraged by the healthy discussions with the district team," he said in a statement.
But he says the parties remain distant on total compensation, which union leaders argue should be increased to better reflect additional professional responsibilities created through the district's "Multi-Tiered System of Support" program. District officials say their offer does not add time to educators' workdays.
The notice of an intent to strike was a necessary "legal step" in the collective bargaining process, Iverson said, stressing the union is "not taking this lightly."
"There's never a good time for a labor dispute like this, and certainly not a strike. That's especially true now," he said. "We really, really hope and will continue to work really, really hard to bring this to a conclusion that everyone can live with. We're just not there yet."