CHICAGO (CBS) — More than 450 support staff workers at one of the largest school districts in the state walked off the job Monday morning, but classes were still in session at elementary schools and grade schools in Palatine Community Consolidated School District 15.
The Educational Support Personnel Association in Palatine announced the strike shortly after 5 a.m. Monday. The district said it wanted to continue contract negotiations, but the 454-member union said it was time for action.
Dozens of support staff lined Palatine Road early Monday, carrying signs protesting what they say is a raw deal offered by the district.
Teachers at District 15 are not on strike; but school nurses, secretaries, sign language interpreters, occupational and physical therapists, training assistants, and other support staff have walked off the job. They work at 15 grade schools, 4 junior high schools, and one preschool in Palatine, Rolling Meadows, and Hoffman Estates.
CBS: A day with no support staff, no nurses, how did go?
“It was a very difficult day,” said Deputy superintendent Matt Barbini.
The biggest impact, admits Barbini is the 1,200 most special needs students who rely on teachers aides.
“They miss the consistency of adults they know who care about them,” he said.
Parents, like Juan Puente are concerned about the at least 30 district’s nurses on the picket lines.
“If an emergency happens there are no nurses to respond,” he said.
The walkout marks the first time support staff represented by ESPA have gone on strike in District 15.
Union members said they have been negotiating since February, with little to no progress.
“I think 2.5 percent for a group that largely starts out with making $11 an hour, that’s less than $12,000 a year, I think that’s a very humble request,” special education classroom aide Jennifer Elkins said.
The last round of talks between the two sides began at 5 p.m. Sunday, and wrapped up at 5 a.m. Monday with no agreement. ESPA Palatine officials immediately decided to call their first strike.
“We very much value the ESPA, and we will continue to work in good faith to reach a fair and equitable agreement for all parties,” District 15 Supt. Matt Barbini said. “That being said, we also value our students and families in the district, who are counting on our schools to be open. Our schools will be open today, as well as throughout any labor stoppage.”
The strikers will be out for at least a couple more days. Negotiations aren’t schedule until Wednesday afternoon.
When the two sides meet they’ll address the main issues they haven’t been able to agree on – wages, benefits and retirement. Each side blames the other for the breakdown that leaves the students in need.
However both sides insist they’re ready to make a deal.