DECATUR, Ill. (WCIA) — Another mediated contract bargaining session for Decatur teaching assistants ended unsuccessfully.
It lasted for three hours. They are still no closer to finalizing an agreement after nearly a year of negotiations. The union says they’re not surprised the board didn’t agree to their terms because that’s what’s been happening ever since they started contract bargaining.
The teaching assistants have been working without a contract for seven months. On Wednesday afternoon, teaching assistants stood outside picketing for their plea. Megan Dellert, a TA at Hope Academy says, “There’s a lot of frustration on our side because we’re just patiently waiting. It seems like we’ve tried all the right tactics. We have tried to reason with them in order to get them to come to terms or try to at least negotiate but at this point it’s just been so one-sided.”
The waiting game will go on even longer. Jon Nadler with the Illinois Federation of Teachers says, “There was no movement by the board.” The union is pushing for better wages, affordable health insurance, and job security.
After Wednesday night’s mediated bargaining session, a representative with Decatur Public Schools released a statement saying the board and the union “had productive discussions, but have not yet come to an agreement.” The union does not share the same perspective. Nadler says, “The board’s response very succinctly is “there is no interest” in offering a counter proposal on the big sticking items.”
Paula Busboom, DFTA President, was not pleased with the results. She said in part:
“Here we are again: another mediation session, another example of the Board’s complete lack of understanding of our members’ jobs, our students’ needs, and the Decatur community….We aren’t asking for much…We want a contract that ensures job security – for our own peace of mind and so our students can learn and grow with the teaching assistants they know and trust.”Paula Busboom, DFTA President
Some teaching assistants believe the continued dispute about contract terms could have a negative impact on the district as a whole. Dellert says, “It’s going to come back to bite them in the butt when they don’t have anybody to fill these positions or anybody willing to do this job. If people can’t afford to work in this job that’s going to affect everyone not just the teaching assistants and their families. It’ll affect the kids too.”
There is no set date for the next mediated bargaining session.
As WCIA reported in October, when the teaching assistants went on a three day strike, the district unexpectedly took away their benefits. That included health insurance. Benefits were later reinstated when the strike ended. The union filed unfair labor practice charges that have now been assigned to an arbitrator. An arbitration date has been set in July where both sides will share testimonies before a ruling is made.