Updated: Teachers in Champaign start process toward strike
The Champaign Federation of Teachers announced Thursday it is starting the 28-day process required by the state before its members can legally strike.
The earliest a strike could happen is Oct. 18.
The law requires that 28-day process before teachers can strike, which Illinois Federation of Teachers spokesman David Comerford said forces the union to "look a little farther ahead."
The union notified the Champaign school district and the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board on Thursday of its wish to start the process of posting most current offers.
The union has not yet filed an intent to strike, but would have to do so 10 days before striking.
The announcement came a day after more than 500 teachers attended a union meeting Wednesday afternoon. About 97 percent voted to give the union's negotiating team the authority to call a strike if need be.
The school district and teachers' union have a bargaining session scheduled with a federal mediator next Wednesday.
"Obviously, our goal is to go into that session and come to resolution," said union President Cathy Mannen Thursday afternoon. "Our team is prepared to do whatever it takes to get that job done."
Unresolved issues included finances and the work teachers are expected to do when students are present and when they are not, Mannen said.
If the parties can't reach a tentative agreement at next Wednesday's session, both sides would be legally required to send their current offers to the labor relations board by the end of the next day, Sept. 26. The law requires both offers to reflect how much they'd cost the school district, Comerford said.
Within a week, the board would post both offers on its website. The offers have to be posted two weeks before teachers could strike.
But even if the district and union can't reach an agreement next week, they'd schedule more sessions with the federal mediator, Mannen said. And even as they send their offers to the educational labor relations board, negotiations can continue, Comerford said.
Mannen said the union's "ultimate goal" is to come to an agreement with the school district. And, even as both parties work their way through the posting process required by state law, Comerford said there's no guarantee that teachers will actually strike Oct. 18.
Comerford said posting the offers offers more public disclosure, and requires both parties to submit offers they're comfortable sharing publicly.
School district spokeswoman Stephanie Stuart said the school district received notice that the teachers' union has started the posting process with the labor relations board.
"We remain fully committed to the negotiation process and are confident that through collective bargaining, we will reach an agreement that will be fair to students, staff and taxpayers," she said. "Our goal is to keep the focus on teaching and learning."
School board President Laurie Bonnett said Thursday the school district is committed to the collective bargaining process. “Our goal is to come to resolution,” she said.
The school district and union both released statements Wednesday regarding negotiations and the union's strike authorization vote.
“The district believes that the bargaining process is compromised when members are asked to authorize a strike while we are still making progress and when final offers are not yet on the table,” its statement said.
The union’s proposed increase, the district said, “would cause the district to deficit spend at a level that would put programs, staffing and other opportunities for students at risk.”
The union issued its own statement later Wednesday afternoon, saying members were disappointed that the board “has decided to publicly criticize the union over a meeting that allows teachers to communicate with their elected union representatives.”
“Teachers have been working without a contract since school started,” the statement said. “They have every right to discuss this important situation and take action as they see fit. It is not the school board’s place to dictate how those decisions are handled.”
Mannen reiterated Thursday that the union would not "ask the district for things we do not think they can afford."