By Bernie Tafoya

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) — Teachers for West Chicago Community High School are taking a job action short of a strike, for now, as they try to negotiate a contract with District 94.

The West Chicago High School Teacher’s Association said 141 teachers will be working to the letter of the contract, “working to terms,” most days from now on. That means teachers will not be coming in early to work or staying late on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays unless they’re specifically paid extra to come in early or stay late. Their normal start and finish times are 7:30 a.m. and 3:10 p.m. The only members exempt from this action are those who have paid assignments before 7:30 a.m. and after 3:10 p.m.

“Our students always come first, but we are tired of the Board of Education putting teachers, and the students we care about, last. We are through working extra hours without being paid,” WCHSTA President Brad Larson said, in a statement. “Until the board appropriately recognizes the hard work of our teachers and what we do for our students, we are going to give the district exactly what it’s paying for.”

Their contract expired at the beginning of this school year. Negotiations started in April 2016. The union said salary and step increases remain the major negotiating points.

“This is not about money. We know the district has the money to meet our requests without raising taxes. This is clearly an attempt to divide our membership and break up our union,” Larson said. “We won’t stand for it. Our teachers and students and the community deserve better. District 94 is able to offer a salary that both attracts and retains quality professionals so we can continue providing an excellent education. The Board of Education, under the leadership of its president, Gary Saake, has chosen to drag out this process with proposals that only include concessions when it could have resolved the remaining issues months ago.”

Teachers have authorized a strike, but have not set a date for one. Contract talks resume next Monday evening.

There are 141 teachers in District 94, serving nearly 2,100 students from West Chicago, Winfield and Carol Stream.

District 94 School Board President Gary Saake offered a detailed response:

The teachers are within their legal rights to take actions such as this.  However, I would ask them how they believe this, or any other similar actions, help us reach an agreement on a contract. Had the Association expended the effort in negotiations that they have in their public displays, we likely would have reached terms long ago.

At last evening’s bargaining session, the District asked to set additional dates for negotiations following the currently scheduled one on February 12th, but the union declined.

Strike or no strike, this can only be resolved at the bargaining table.

The Association President blames the district for drawing out negotiations. Nothing could be further from the truth. In January 2017, the Association’s Chief Negotiator was replaced, and the union walked-back verbal agreements previously reached.  Following that, the District presented a full offer on April 11, 2017 and the Association failed to respond for over two month, then would agree to meet only twice more over the summer prior to the contract expiring, despite the Board’s team offering nearly three dozen dates to meet. The negotiations would probably have moved much more quickly if their first proposal wouldn’t have sought an 30% increase in compensation in the first year alone. 

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