Updated: Champaign teachers union to take strike authorization vote

Updated: Champaign teachers union to take strike authorization vote

UPDATED 4:07 p.m. Thursday.

The union that represents teachers in the Champaign school district is planning to take a strike authorization vote.

The Champaign Federation of Teachers met for a bargaining session with the school district Wednesday, and a federal mediator joined them for the third time.

"After two hours of bargaining, a settlement was not reached," according to a news release from the union. They have another session scheduled for Oct. 15.

The school district issued a statement saying the school board was "surprised and disappointed" to hear of the vote while the district and union are still negotiating.

A strike authorization vote is when the union's negotiating team goes back to its membership to report on how negotiations are going, said Illinois Federation of Teachers Spokesman David Comerford.

The union members then give the team feedback and takes a vote to give the bargaining team authorization to call a strike if necessary, Comerford said. The vote has to do with the union's constitution and is different than the intent-to-strike vote the union would have to file with the state Educational Labor Relations Board at least 10 days before striking.

Comerford said a new state law has changed the timeline on which downstate teachers strike.

After the school district and union have been working with a federal mediator, either side can declare an impasse at any time. Both sides then must submit, within seven calendar days, their final offers to the Educational Labor Relations Board. The labor board must then post the offers on its website for two weeks.

"Then, a strike could happen," Comerford said.

The vote the Champaign Federation of Teachers has announced will give the bargaining team the authority to declare an impasse, he said.

“We are still hopeful we can reach a settlement,” said union President Cathy Mannen, in the release. “Last year we proposed, and the (school) board readily agreed with, to freeze the salary schedule, due to the uncertainties in the economy and the state’s budget. But inflation is not zero. Teachers should not have to have their salaries eroded by inflation, especially when we think the district has the money.”

The school district said in the last two bargaining sessions, it has "twice modified its salary proposals, and these offers are above a step increase and exceed the increase in the cost of living," the statement said. "(The union) has not responded to these proposals and instead has decided to ask its membership to authorize a strike."

The statement said the board believes continued collective bargaining will resolve the issues.

"We value and respect our faculty and staff and want to work with (the union) to come to a successful conclusion to these negotiations," it said. "We are also mindful that we need to be fiscally responsible, especially in light of state and federal funding cuts and uncertainty with pension costs."

The school board passed this year's budget Monday, which includes a $1.7 million surplus in its operating funds (which includes its educational fund that pays teacher salaries). The budget presentation at the board's meeting that night included a reminder that the surplus did not include any raise the teachers would receive as a result of contract negotiations.

The budget showed the school district began this school year with $25.6 million in reserves in its operating funds.

The school district has long maintained that the reserves will be needed should Illinois cut state funding, shift the responsibility of pension costs to the school district or other problems with federal funding.

"The district remains fully committed to continuing to engage in good-faith negotiations and to reach an agreement that benefits students, employees and taxpayers without disrupting the educational program," the school board's statement said.

The Champaign teachers participated in an informational picket earlier this month at the Mellon building, and at that time, released a timeline of the union's negotiations with the school district:

— Bargaining began April 4, when the school board asked the union to present a one-year proposal because of the uncertain economy.

— The union complied and "presented a very brief proposal at the second bargaining session" on April 17.

— The board responded April 25, "with what the federation found to be a rather lengthy proposal."

— Bargaining teams met again May 21 and June 25, "when the administration requested we attempt mediation."

— The board's first mediation session was Aug. 14, and its second was Sept. 12, two days after the picket.


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sacrophyte wrote on September 27, 2012 at 3:09 pm

What role does the public play in all this? The CFT held an "informational picket" before the regular board meeting at the beginning of the month, but it was not clear to me then (and nor is it now) what the public is actually supposed to do. I get that the event supposedly applies pressure on the Board, but to do what exactly? All we know are very general things. And maybe that is the way it is supposed to be - I just don't get what part we play in this little saga. It is our tax money afterall, right?


-- confused

JimmyB wrote on September 27, 2012 at 4:09 pm

What people need to understand: Teachers only work 180 days per year, Every weekend off, every holiday off, have the whole summer off, can retire at a young age due to the very generous Illinois public retirement system.


If the teachers are that unhappy…get  full time jobs!


We have all heard the old saying….Those who can…..work!, those who can’t….teach!

jenniferds wrote on September 27, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Jimmy - Your comment is both disrespectful and ignorant. When picking a career everyone has the opportunity to become a teacher. If it is so easy, then come and join us!

rsp wrote on September 27, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Never met a teacher who didn't work weekends, devote evenings to the next day's class, etc. Then there's the summer jobs or extra classes to stay current with best practices and getting ready for the new year. Also, what about the money teachers spend out of pocket to buy supplies for the classroom? Let's talk about my grandson's class. He has special needs. There are 15 kids in his class in all, with special needs. But that's not a real job is it?

edreality wrote on September 27, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Oh, my!  What planet are you from, JimmyB?  I have worked EVERY summer the past 16 years!  I also work every day (including weekends!) doing adaptations, lesson plans, grading papers, doing research, etc., etc. until early morning hours.  Do YOU take your work home with you?  Doubtful.  

In case you haven't heard, newly hired teachers now have to work until they are 67.  When can you retire?  65?  62?  60?

As for your idiotic, obsolete, over-used comment, "Those who can...work ..." what exactly do you do?  Is it something that impacts the future?  We are teaching, molding, impacting childrens' lives, preparing them for challenges they will meet as they grow.  I don't know ANY job that is more important than that!

What people need to understand:  Teachers work year-round, caring for YOUR children.  We do what we can with what we are given.  We have families to support and bills to pay, just like everyone else.  Your support is appreciated.

Mike K wrote on September 27, 2012 at 4:09 pm

Well it will be interesting to see how the board handles this.  If they walk out give them 24 hours to be back in the classroom, those who fail to report back to the classroom should be immediately fired.  It's not that complicated.  I know there are a lot of recent college graduates who would love a job.

buzorro wrote on September 27, 2012 at 5:09 pm

'What role does the public play in all this?...I just don't get what part we play in this little saga.'


It's an us vs them thing.  Public support for the teachers' union is critical for them.  They want you to contact the School Board members, identify yourself as a voter, taxpayer and supporter of the teachers' union, and insist that the Board comply with the teachers' demands.


Of course, you're also to empathize 100% with the teachers' arguments in favor of their demands and ignore 100% of the Board's reasons against.


And, as always, in the end you will eventually pay more in property taxes, since the goal of all unions, private and public, is to increase pay and benefits for their members, or else the union leaders could be voted out of their positions of power. When that happens the teachers' union will be silent and the Board members will have to justify to the voters why a property tax increase is needed, the teachers' union will deny any blame, etc., etc., ad nauseum.


I'm with JimmyB.

bremax wrote on September 27, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Attention Teachers Union Members and Leadership:


Your members are doing a lousy job here in Champaign.  Unit 4 is a low rated district, and your leadership has shown continued resistance to reasonable attempts at fixing it.


Your leadership is concerned only with the protection of the lousiest of teachers, preventing the good teachers from being rewarded for their talents and labor, and grubbing as much money as possible.


We don't like you, and our respect for you falls a little more every time you threaten a strike, or walk out on your responsibilities in the classroom.

jenniferds wrote on September 27, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Apparently someone did a lousy job of teaching you how to use commas. If you addressed your comment to teachers, union members, and leadership, by saying that we are lousy, why do you later imply that there are good teachers not being rewarded? At first I was insulted, and then I was confused. And just out of curiosity, when is the last time you stepped foot in a Champaign school? 

bremax wrote on September 27, 2012 at 5:09 pm

I went Unit 4 schools, and I was taught not to start a sentance with "and."  So, while you are picking nits, take a moment to examine your own writing.


When was the last time a truely excellent teacher was rewarded for putting in the extra effort?  Never.  That would violate union rules.  The good teachers quickly learn to moderate their effort.

DedicatedTeacher wrote on October 02, 2012 at 9:10 pm

Truly excellent teachers are rewarded. We are rewarded by our students. We see them get excited about learning, fall in love with reading, write and draw on their own time, and teach their fellow classmates. That is a reward, and I will gladly work until retirement to see those moments.

jenniferds wrote on September 27, 2012 at 5:09 pm

I find it very interesting how many members of the public are quick to attack teachers in these situations. In such an article as this, which gives no specific numbers from the negotiations, readers quickly assume that teachers are being greedy. Please don't be so naive to think that education hasn't itself turned into a business. Unless you have sat in the meetings and poured over the pages and pages of paperwork, you do not know what the numbers are.

Believe me, teachers are not sitting at home and thinking about ways to screw the board of education out of more money. Teachers are more than likely grading papers, writing lesson plans, attending workshops, meeting with parents, or thinking of a way to reach a child who is seemingly unreachable. The 180 days that they get paid for do not cover these hours. During my 5th year of teaching I kept meticulous records of the number of hours I worked, the amount of money I spent in my classroom, and the amount I got paid. I made less than $10.00/hour. The system makes teachers so tired that they have no energy left to fight back.

I get it that people get sick of hearing teachers complain. Teachers (and anyone else in a public service position) will always face the struggle of dealing with the consequences of society. 

Please show the teachers of our community the respect they deserve by TRUSTING that we are working hard every school day, and many non-school days. We are. 



johnnybgood wrote on September 27, 2012 at 5:09 pm

"Normal" Full time jobs:

8 hours a day x 300 days = 2400 hours worked a year.


AT LEAST 12 hours a day x 185 school days = 2220 hours + another 10 hours every weekend x 40 weekends = 2620 hours MINIMUM.

I put usually put in 15 hours a school day and 15 hours on the weekend, and spend about $600 every year on supplies for my classroom out of my own pocket but that's another story.

As a new, excited teacher in Unit 4 I can tell you that without any sort of keeping up with inflation I won't be able to stay here longer than a few years.  I honestly love it here, but I can barely afford to support myself, let alone when I decide to start a family eventually.  You keep saying that Unit 4 teachers are terrible, yet you aren't going to make any sort of effort to keep us around?  That seems like an excellent idea, JimmyB and everyone else who is hating on the teachers. 

bremax wrote on September 27, 2012 at 6:09 pm

And if a teacher doesn't put in all of those extra hours that you "claim" to work?  If you take the easy route, and lazy your way through?  Well, then you get the exact same pay.  You get the exact same job protections.  You get the same annual raise in salary.

jenniferds wrote on September 27, 2012 at 6:09 pm

If you are a business minded person I can see how you don't believe teachers when they claim to work all of these extra hours. Why would anyone when they will get paid the same salary as one who deosn't? In my case, it's because I care about kids. I also don't want to deal with these kids as adults in the future when they didn't have teachers who did what it took to be a teacher today.  

Education should not be a business.

johnnybgood wrote on September 27, 2012 at 6:09 pm

The sole fact that you put claim in quotes shows me that you have zero respect for any teachers anyways so I do not need to justify myself to you.  It also shows that you obviously have no close family or friends who are teachers, and therefore have no idea of the amount of work most of us do on a regular basis.  You claim to not want to "reward" the FEW bad apples because everyone else works hard, but how is it going to make this district any better to punish all of the teachers because of those bad apples?  It is only going to force those of us who are passionate and good at what we do to leave, and what will you be left with?

Sid Saltfork wrote on September 27, 2012 at 8:09 pm

Teachers don't let them get to you.  They are the same people who spout anti-public employee statements toward university employees, state employees, law enforcement officers, and firefighters.  They are anti-union.  They claim that they are the taxpayers; but fail to understand that public employees pay taxes also.  They are angry because their 401 K's tanked in the financial melt down.  They bragged 10 years ago to public employees that their 401 K's were far superior to pensions.  Now; they are bitter, envious, misinformed, and down right hateful.  It is the same commentor names that attack public employees whether the employees are teachers, state employees, or municipal employees.  Don't let them get to you.  They are only the howling mob.  They howl just to hear themselves howl.

ClearVision wrote on September 28, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Don't forget that howling mob (or is it a lone wolf?) that frequently criticises university administration, professors, and academic personnel. They're public employees, too.

Rather than adding to the howling why don't you provide facts on this issue? Let's see a comparison of teachers salaries and benefits with other, related industries in the state and area.

Sid Saltfork wrote on September 28, 2012 at 4:09 pm

ClearVision;  I love the tag by the way.  You have ClearVision; and everyone else wears bifocals.  Your posts are always anti-union, anti-public service employee, and right wing conservative.  I do not criticize all academic personnel.  I only criticize the elitists who draw very good salaries; and criticize the lower paid employees.  Why the defensive posture?  Are you one of the elite administrators, or professors?  Maybe, your an emeritus professor?  One of those who takes up office space on campus while you are retired?  Whatever your background; your posts attack those you consider not deserving of a middle class income.  

Teachers are, and have been under paid since the profession began.  They are the ones who prepare our children for further education.  We all hope that our children have better lives than ours.  We know that a good education is the way for them to have the better life.  I would support the teachers whether they are in a union, or not.  I pay property taxes that helps fund their salaries.  I know that it is a good investment.  My property appreciates in a good school district.  The shame is that the negotiations started last spring with nothing happening until now.  Look around at the other school districts.  It is a trend.  The stalling by the school boards lead to the frustration of a strike.  Look at the superintendents salaries, and the administrative salaries.  It is the same in higher education.  The front line employees who do the work get blamed, and harrassed while the higher ups get the money.

ClearVision take off the blinders.  Look at reality once in a while.


Oneforall wrote on September 28, 2012 at 1:09 pm

Unions do not protect "bad" or "lazy" teachers as you suggest.  Rather, administrators who fail to initiate communication with that teacher or begin a remediation plan protect "bad" or "lazy" teachers. 

EL YATIRI wrote on September 28, 2012 at 4:09 am
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This is the result of the constant political propaganda against teachers and anybody else who doesn't vote for the GOP/teatards.  

They are ignorant, uninformed, and completely indoctrinated by right wing radio and Faux News.

The reasons for the poor performance of the public schools are complex, and teacher unions are the whipping boy/scapegoat for all that is wrong.


Marty wrote on September 28, 2012 at 11:09 am

Part of it is teachers, my sons second grade teacher graded him wrong on a second grade spelling test because he spelled laptop instead of labtop and ornament instead of ordiment.

Part of it is the students, it amazes me at how pathetic many of them are.

The BIGEST problem is the parents. Lack of interest, responsibility, and time spent with kids gives them little chance.

Teachers should be payed based on performance, not by a negotiated contract. Teachers that do a better job should get payed more than teachers that don't. This should not be based solely on test scores of course.

ClearVision wrote on September 28, 2012 at 3:09 pm

OK, start with providing a salary table for teachers in Unit 4.I saw one several years ago that was very eye-opening. Show us some respect by providing us with real data so we can be more informed rather than blindly trusting you and your union.

Sid Saltfork wrote on September 28, 2012 at 4:09 pm

ClearVision;  There you go again.  Wanting facts; but not bothering to look them up.  Your big gripe is that the teachers are in a union.

sacrophyte wrote on September 27, 2012 at 8:09 pm

JimmyB - that was rude and offensive.


I am going to acknowledge jenniferds, rsp and johnnybgood; I believe you are on the right track in recognizing that most teachers work extremely hard. I routinely say that my wife (no, she is not a teacher in Unit 4) works much harder than I do, but the IRS seems to think otherwise.


I have talked to a few teachers, principals, CFT reps and board members about the negotiations; I have some small idea of what is going on and know a little about the different perspectives. It is my understanding that board members and district administration completely agrees that teachers and staff deserve raises and better working conditions, but the disagreement lies in how those concerns will be met. Not if, but how. I feel for both the Board and the CFT because the Board has already passed a surplus budget with way too many variables (eg, what happens to the state funding of pensions? What will come out of the PE firm DeJong et al?) - if I were a board member, I would have wanted to postpone passing the budget, but I am pretty sure that is not legal. It might not even be financially wise.


It should be noted that teachers are currently preparing lesson plans, showing up in classrooms and doing their job with NO CONTRACT as of June 30th. To me, that says a lot. I walk near a school and I see teachers working at 8:30pm. On a Sunday. Award-winning teachers. These aren't slackers. My conclusion is that they absolutely love their job and want to give the kids the best experience they can possibly get.


Are there bad apples? Of course! Is the system perfect? No way! Let us acknowledge the good that we have and let us not abide by the bad that we also have. We need to work together in both regards.


I am still searching for role the public plays. I have this itch because we are talking about tax dollars, yet we have no visibility into these negotiations. Perhaps I am simply naive.


-- charles schultz

Champaignite wrote on September 28, 2012 at 3:09 pm

I think this is a public link for the current contract with the salary schedule at the end:



DedicatedTeacher wrote on October 02, 2012 at 9:10 pm

That link is correct; that booklet lists the salary that I am currently being paid. The problem with the negotiations is that the Board has not even provided the Union with a new potential salary schedule. There is no way that the Union could accept the Board's current proposal because, well, there really isn't one! 

Would you agree to a contract without knowing what you would be paid?

buzorro wrote on September 28, 2012 at 7:09 pm

FDR had the reputation of being a 'champion' of the working man.  He has been quoted as saying that, 'If I were a working man I'd want to belong to a union.'  He was pro-union.  However, he also made the clear distinction between public unions vs private unions.  He repeatedly voiced his opinion against public-employee unions. 

Many teachers have pointed out to taxpayers who just don't 'get it,' that they spend countless hours at home preparing for the next day's lessons or grading papers, work summer jobs, as well as have out-of-pocket expenses buying school supplies.  Question:  Is this something new?  If that has been the case for several decades, were you not informed of those hardships before you decided to be a teacher?

We all want a good education for our kids.  Teachers are paid to do that, they were educated on how to do that.  Some will blame the increasing drop-out rate on a bad home life or environment, and I won't disagree that many factors affect the teachability of many kids.  But what of the ones who don't drop out?  Don't colleges and universities spend millions of dollars every year teaching freshmen how to read and write?  Are these quality teachers at the K-12 level not producing quality students?  Or is this rare?

Some teachers complain that the real money-drain is the high salaries paid to administrators and other high-level positions.  Do you not see that their outrageous salaries are in direct proportion to your own pay increases?  Bosses are always paid more than their subordinates, and that high-paid administrator started out as a teacher.

Teachers pay property taxes too.  However, that money isn't used to pay me or anyone working in the private sector, is it?  The system uses property taxes to pay teachers.  Guess what?  My property taxes went down last year because the housing market tanked a few years ago.  As long as the property tax base remains tepid where is the money going to come from to give teachers salary and benefit increases?  Raise property taxes?

The State WILL put 100% of the teachers pension costs on the individual districts.  Count on it.  The State cannot layoff enough employees to make up for the shortfall.  Result?  Higher property taxes.

Result of higher property taxes?  People fleeing Illinois. or else families living together like the Waltons.  G'nite Grandpa...

Sid Saltfork wrote on September 28, 2012 at 8:09 pm

Please, please flee....  No, taxes are not going to pay for your work in the private sector.  Taxes pay for public services such as roads, and public employees.  Teachers were not to blame for home equity drops.  The bankers, and other speculators were to blame.  Yet, you defend those culprits in your right wing beliefs; and you blame people who had nothing to do with it.  Teachers are not surrogate parents.  Yet, you want to blame teachers for some students lack of attention to work.  Yes, school is work.  A student gets out of it what they put into it.  Teachers are there to assist, train, and motivate.  Yes, I blame the parents for a non-performing student.  The FDR quote gets old.  Gee, he was president from 1932 until he died in office.  That was only 70 some years ago.  Unions were in their infancy at that time.  Do you think that the world has maybe changed since then? 

Please, please flee for the good of us all here.  You would love Alabama, Texas, or even Kentucky.  Good bye, Sonny.

buzorro wrote on September 29, 2012 at 6:09 am

'...The bankers, and other speculators were to blame.  Yet, you defend those culprits in your right wing beliefs; and you blame people who had nothing to do with it...'

Makin' stuff up as you go along, or is this a knee-jerk reaction?  When have I ever defended bankers or culprits?  Sounds like you're running out of ammo, sonny.

Sid Saltfork wrote on September 29, 2012 at 7:09 am

Come on, buzorro; I have seen your posts before.  Your out there with the other right wing posters.  Whether it is taxes, gun legislation, or public employees; your against them.  You blame working people for your woes.  Your being played by the people who made this financial mess. 

DanB wrote on September 30, 2012 at 7:09 am

Hmmmm, I have no problem with teachers, but how many of you have looked at your property tax bill? About 50% is for Unit IV alone.

EL YATIRI wrote on October 01, 2012 at 3:10 am
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The good students with supportive families have gone to private schools or have moved to Mahomet, Monticello and other nearby towns with good public schools.

The problem students are dumped on the public schools.  I know families that send there high functioning children to private school, but send their autistic and behavior problem students to the public school.

Discipline of minority students became a problem after John Lee Johnson sued Unit 4 and a consent decree mandated racial quotas which essentially tied the hands of teachers when disciplining problem students.

So public schools have large student/teacher ratios and many behavior challenged/disruptive students with unsupportive parents.

Bulldogmojo wrote on October 01, 2012 at 9:10 am

I can't believe I have to keep reposting this statement for various stories about teachers...

Politicians have somehow convinced 50% of this country that teachers wrecked the economy. In fact the lack of anti-fraud enforcement of Wallstreet investment banks during the second half of the Clinton Administration and most of the Bush administration was the cause. Have a good stiff drink and watch Frontline's "The Warning"



carlyoc25 wrote on October 02, 2012 at 4:10 pm

For those of you who think that teachers get it so easy because they have summers off, have you ever actually known a teacher personally?  I am married to a teacher and my sister and brother-in-law are both teachers and I can honestly say that I have never known a harder working group of people in my entire life.  They more than earn their summers off and then some.  They work days, nights and weekends, attend conferences in their free time and are constantly coming up with new lesson plans and new ways to better teach our kids.  I know I couldn't do it and I thank them every day for the hard work that they do.  "If you can't do, teach?"  Really?  I'm sorry, but most teachers are more than capable of doing most anything; thankfully for the rest of us they have chosen the extremely noble profession of teaching.  Please get to know some teachers and all that they do before you make statements like this. 

illini_trucker wrote on October 04, 2012 at 10:10 am

I'm just appalled at all the negativity. Heart surgeons get paid 6 figures easily to enhance a single persons life by maybe 5-15 years. Teaching involves enhancing the entire citizen population, providing education for millions at once! To include the same said heart surgeons. Everything anyone has ever become started out learning patterns by playing with blocks in Kindergarten (of course there are a very few alternate examples). Imagine an expensive pretty tree. See all those pretty leaves and blossoms at the top making my analogystic $433,480 yearly??? Yea, that all started down at my analogystic teaching level down there at the roots.  How unappreciative this society is. Lets just cut out education altogether that way there EVERYONE can get Disability for being durt-dee-durs!! Strike teachers!! Strike away til y'all get what your looking for!! You shouldn't have to wait for a minimum wage increase to get a pay raise! And by The Lord Almighty, I, as a citizen, THANK YOU!!!