Champaign, Ill. (WCIA) — After months of unsettled contract negotiations with the school district,
Champaign teachers picketed outside the administration building to make their message clear.
They’ve been negotiating contracts since May. Even after bringing in a federal mediator, teachers and the district still haven’t been able to settle on terms. The picket on Thursday was their way of showing they won’t back down.
This is another step toward a strike. Just last week they had another bargaining meeting, but no contract came out of it. If they can’t come to an agreement, the teachers are prepared to strike by December.
The teachers at the picket were determined to get their point across to school administrators. Michelle Anderson says, “We want to bargain, we want to talk, we want to meet and settle. But if not, we are willing to go the extra mile.”
There are more than 850 teachers in Champaign schools. Almost 200 people showed up at the picket Thursday afternoon. Anderson says, “Our goal is to let them know we’re not afraid to walk but we would love to settle before we have to.”
Parents also came to support them. Casey Reynolds says, “I care about the job they do and I want to see them get the resources they need for our students to become the best they can be.”
Teachers are going on five months without a contract. They say it’s because the district won’t budge on negotiating their demands on smaller class sizes, fair wages, home visits, and a few other issues.
Jefferson Middle School teacher Scott Fernsberg says, “It makes me angry. We’re all adults and we can have a discussion on what the best path is to take but if you’re not willing to talk to us and negotiate then that’s a problem.”
The district didn’t respond to WCIA’s request for a statement on the teacher picket. Last week the district said they offered a forum to talk about class sizes and offered a pay increase, but not as high as they union wants. If they aren’t able to come to terms, teachers say they will take the next step.
Fernsberg says, “I’m prepared to strike, we’re all prepared to strike.” While they hope it doesn’t come to that, they’re getting ready for it in case. Anderson says, “We have strike manuals out. We’re working on picket captains, we’re putting plans in place. We are out here fighting for your students, just like you. And we want to make sure Unit 4 is a place that teachers want to work at and students want to come and stay.”
The next bargaining session will be on November 14, 2018. WCIA will be there to let you know what comes out of it.