Friday, October 17, 2014

Impasse in Waukegan: "Teachers Are United and the Community"

“We’ve asked the Board and District to negotiate at the table, and not in the media. However, they continued to discuss proposals in public that show only a snapshot of the process.

“To be honest, the process isn’t exactly something that captures headlines, which is why they’ve taken to sound bites that don’t tell the whole story. It’s misleading and unethical and we expect more from our elected leaders.

“We did not walk away from the table as the District’s lawyer characterized. We are giving them time to reflect and to look at their own numbers and come back with a serious offer. Until last night, the two sides exchanged proposals in rapid succession. Each proposal from the Board showed miniscule movement.

“Since Board members have yet to attend a session, the District representatives needed to bring each proposal back to the Board for approval before they could go forward. This is a cumbersome process. We’re allowing them time to regroup with the Board. The unserious offers they’ve given us would not win a vote with our membership, who have the right to reject a tentative agreement, sending us back to square one.

“Let’s put this into perspective. The last proposal from the Board showed movement of .1% — which would cover about a few cups of coffee a week for many of our members. But let’s be clear – this is not about the money. There’s a $37 million surplus. This is about breaking the will of the teachers and teaching us a lesson in a way that we would never do to our students.

“The Board cannot honestly think that our members are continuing this strike over a .1%. The Board canceled health insurance for our teachers – many of whom are battling catastrophic illnesses — why would they endure having no health insurance in hopes of a few more cups a coffee a week? We have members on chemotherapy who will be on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars without insurance.

“It was abundantly clear at the Board meeting Tuesday night that the teachers are united and the community has our backs. It was also clear that the community is outraged at the Board of Education. Many of the Board members – including Board President Anita Hannah — will be up for election in three years. It cannot be a coincidence that the Board — through district representatives — is pushing for a two-year contract.

“We conducted a listening tour this morning of picket lines to talk to our members and the communities who stand in solidarity with us. There was much talk about running school Board candidates in the upcoming elections against incumbents on the Board. If this were to happen, we could be negotiating our next contract with Board members who truly represent the voices of Waukegan and maybe even be present at the negotiations table.

“We demand the Board to come back to us with a serious proposal. We want them to stop hiding behind their $275-an-hour Downtown Chicago lawyer, roll up their sleeves and hammer out a deal that will bring our kids back into the classroom.

“A long-term plan for improving Waukegan’s economy includes a solid investment in its schools. To continue to pay teachers far less than neighboring districts forces experienced teachers to flee to other districts. As teachers retire, the best and brightest teachers of the next generation will not consider teaching in Waukegan.

“We’ll be here when the District’s lawyer returns to his office in Downtown Chicago. We’ll be here when members of the Board of Education have been unseated and replaced.

“We, the teachers, have a vested interest in this community. That interest lies in our classrooms. That’s why our teachers collected more than 1100 pounds of food to for the local food pantry. We want to see the children of Waukegan prosper. 

“As I stated earlier, this is not and has NEVER been about the money. It’s about respect. Respect for educators and the community we serve.”

Kathy Schwarz, President of the Waukegan Teachers Council 

From Fred Klonsky’s Blog

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