Strike dates set for area districts

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DECATUR, Ill. (WCIA) — If the Decatur Federation of Teaching Assistants and the school district can’t reach an agreement before October 29, the union is prepared to strike that date.

DFTA announced Thursday morning their tentative strike date that comes nearly six months after negotiations with the district began in April.

“It is with a heavy heart that we do this,” says Paula Busboom, president of the Decatur Federation of Teaching Assistants (DFTA). “Never in my many years as president of this union did I think we would be setting a strike date. But we cannot allow health care to be priced out of the reach of our members. The Board of Education needs to rethink their proposals.”

Officials with the Decatur school district did not immediately have a statement in response.

The union is planning a rally at an October 22 school board meeting; they’ll meet again with the district on October 23 to continue negotiations.

To date, the union and district have met in the presence of a federal mediator three times.

Sticking points between the two include healthcare costs, hours, wages, and other issues.

Both sides have posted their most recent proposals on the state’s Educational Labor Relations Board, which is necessary for unions prior to a potential strike.

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, district officials said they would continue mediation on October 23.

“Until that time, it is important to acknowledge the board of education values each member of our staff and we strive to provide a competitive salary and benefits package for our employees while being fiscally responsible and accountable to the Decatur community that we serve,” the statement read.

The Decatur TA union isn’t the only still slogging through the negotiation process well into the school year: teachers and other staff in Farmer City’s Blue Ridge school district are also gearing up for a potential strike on October 28.

In Springfield, negotiations between the teachers union and district continue. That district’s union met with district officials in the presence of a federal mediator for the first time on October 16.

They’re hashing out terms for class size reduction efforts, “pay equity for paraprofessionals, more psychologists, nurses and social workers, and salary and benefit improvements,” according to the union.

Should any of those downstate districts strike, they’ll be following the lead of the Chicago Teacher’s Union, which officially began striking Thursday morning.

Chicago education staffers are fighting to have a full-time nurse, librarian and social worker in every school, as well as class size parameters, wages and benefits, among others.

The Chicago union represents more than 25,000 education staffers. They’ve been negotiating with officials for more than 10 months.

Like those in Blue Ridge, they’ve been working without a contract since June 30.

One group that was able to avoid a strike was the Champaign Educational Support Professionals and Unit 4. After six months of negotiations, that union and the Champaign school board reached a “tentative agreement on a new, three-year contract,” according to a press release from the district.

The union will bring the agreement before their membership for ratification on October 26. School board members will vote on it on October 28.

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