No contract settled in Champaign support union talks; members picket before negotiating session

CHAMPAIGN — The school district and the union that represents its support staff members did not reach a settlement during bargaining Wednesday, but the union's president said he remains positive.

"I think we're getting there," said Champaign Educational Support Professionals President Steve Pease.

The parties scheduled two more negotiating sessions; the next is Nov. 6, Pease said.

Some of the union's members participated in an informational picket before a negotiating session Wednesday, demanding a fair contract.

Pease said the picket's goal is to remind the public about the people who are members of the union.

"We're the support staff," Pease said, and the union includes people who work closely with students who attend Champaign school. "We're the ones that start their day and end their day," he said.

The union's contract with the school district expired July 1, and the two sides have been negotiating since June.

The union represents about 540 Champaign school district employees in 14 kinds of jobs, including cooks, mechanics, teaching assistants, secretaries, custodians and more.

Pease said he's was happy that the Champaign Federation of Teachers have settled their contract with the school district.

"It's time to focus and get this wrapped up," Pease said.

School board Vice President Jamar Brown could not be reached for comment.

Champaign Federation of Teachers President Cathy Mannen said the teachers' union supports the support professionals' union.

"The role that they play in the education of our kids is extremely important," Mannen said, adding that members work directly with kids, in school offices, keep the district's buildings clean and well-maintained, and drive students to and from school.

"Every one of those jobs is important and matters to the education of our kids," Mannen said. "We want to see them ... get a fair contract for their members."

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