Friday, September 22, 2017

School district labor
scene quiet at start of year

Four teacher strikes were called last school year.
There have been no teacher strikes since the school year began about a month ago for most districts in Illinois. Some contract disagreements have been reported, including one involving a federal mediator.

According to data provided by the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, federal mediation is ongoing in Quincy SD 172, where the teacher union’s membership voted down a tentative agreement reached two months ago. The contract talks, underway since February, included sessions with a federal mediator on Aug. 31 and Sept. 12.

The talks reportedly will continue, even though the next scheduled negotiation is not yet scheduled. The mediator, who is now arranging the next meeting date, was called in from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, an independent agency of the U.S. government that provides mediation services to schools, and government and community organizations, as well as to industry. Typically a mediator offers a helpful outside perspective, with the goal of bringing the two sides together to reach an equitable agreement.

The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board says school districts and unions commonly bring in a mediator after both sides cannot find common ground on issues following expiration of an existing contract.

Quincy public schools had previously encountered a strike just last school year: the strike began Jan. 11, and ended Jan. 19, 2017. The Quincy SD 172 Board of Education ratified the teachers’ current one-year contract Feb. 2, but in seeking a longer-term pact, recurring issues led to further disagreements. This may have been complicated by the fact that the union reorganized this year to bring non-teaching school district employees into the labor organization.

Statewide, four teacher strikes occurred last school year, each settled within a matter of days, except a stoppage in East Moline CUSD 37 that lasted more than two weeks. It involved 263 IEA teachers, paraprofessionals, secretaries, and nurses, beginning Jan. 27 and ending Feb. 15.

Teacher strikes last school year also occurred in Red Hill CUSD 10 (Bridgeport), which involved 78 teachers, custodians, and cooks; Quincy SD 172, which involved 870 teachers; and Pinckneyville SD 50, which involved 30 teachers.

More recent strike authorizations by bus drivers were filed in two different Minooka school districts on Aug. 3, and in Decatur SD 61 on Aug. 31. None of those strike authorizations has led to a strike, but negotiations are ongoing.