District #33 teachers voted on Wednesday to authorize their negotiators to set a strike date, according to a news release issued today by the Elementary Teachers’ Association of West Chicago (ETAWC).
According to the release, the vote occurred at a membership meeting called in response to the school board’s announcement it would impose significant cuts in pay and benefits on teachers if they don’t agree to a contract by Feb. 21. The vote to authorize the setting of a strike date passed by a 96% margin, but no strike date has been set at this time.
"After 52 years of settling contracts with the school board, it is with great sadness that the Elementary Teachers of West Chicago are making this announcement," said ETAWC Chief Negotiator Mary Catherine Kosmach. “We have tried everything we can to avoid matters coming to this point.”
“We have offered significant concessions on every one of the school board’s key issues, but they keep demanding more,” Kosmach said. “The teachers remain committed to the negotiations process, but patience wears very thin when we face continual threats of imposition and cuts.”
ETAWC and the school board initiated negotiations over 16 months ago. Although some agreements have been reached, several issues remain unsettled, including class size, teacher appraisal, salary, health insurance, and retirement provisions for employees.
Kosmach said the school board’s “threat to impose” came one day after ETAWC proposed a reduced insurance package, identical to what the board provides to district administrators, but the teachers’ offer was rejected. ETAWC has estimated that the teacher’s offer would have reduced the district’s health insurance costs by close to $700,000 over two years, with savings continuing into the future.
ETAWC negotiators have not yet announced a strike date. Kosmach said teachers will not strike without giving advance notice to parents.
“All teachers are asking for is compromise,” Kosmach said. “At this point the school board seems more interested in conflict.”
- The Elementary Teachers Association of West Chicago (ETAWC)
Mary Catherine Kosmach, ETAWC Chief Negotiator
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