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Strike On: EP Teachers Walk Picket Line

Monday's bargaining session between D124 school board and teachers union fails to produce contract. Teachers's strike begins today.

The Evergreen Park teachers’ union bargaining team walked out of Central Junior High School after one last attempt to negotiate a new contract with the D124 school board just before the TV news trucks drove away after the 10 o’clock news.

Watch the video of the union's strike announcement.

Looking grim-faced, the teachers union announced there would be no classes today for the district’s 1,800 elementary school students after Monday night’s bargaining session failed to produce a new contract.

The Evergreen Park Federation of Teachers and school board have been trying to work out a new teachers’ contract since April. No ne contract talks have been scheduled, although the union’s bargaining team has said members would sit down any time to negotiate with the school board.

“It’s safe to say [the bargaining team] have gone through a very gut wrenching and one of the most difficult decisions they’ve made in their lives,” said Dave Comerford, spokesman for the Illinois Federation of Teachers.

Announcing that teachers and paraprofessionals from Evergreen Park’s five public elementary schools had decided to go on strike Tuesday, Comerford accused the school board of engaging in intimidation tactics and trying to wear union members down.

“The board of education’s last proposal to teachers threatened that students would not make up any day that teachers were out on strike,” Comerford said. “We find it unconscionable that the board of education would not want students in class every day possible.”

Comerford explained that the board’s latest contract offer on Monday night contained legalese denying teachers and paraprofessionals additional pay or benefits for any strike makeup days.

“The level of intimidation tactics has reached a new high,” he said. “It was offered as a threat about what [union] members would lose. It wasn’t about the district’s financial situation or the kids.”

While the board offered to reduce the monthly contributions that certified staff paid to healthcare benefits, the district’s paraprofessionals and teachers’ aides still weren’t being offered a living wage.

“When all is said and done members say they take home $219 a week,” Comerford said.

Both sides made proposals Monday evening. Comerford said the union made concessions on retirement benefits that would have saved the school district $180,000.

The union also balked at a proposed academic program, tying student growth to salary that union barganing team memebrs allege was never discussed at the bargaining table but added at the last second.

“There is no solid evidence to show merit pay helps kids to achieve,” Comerford added.

The school district is also offering a health savings account plan designed to help employees save on insurance premiums by putting money into an account similar to an IRA, which "doesn't exist yet and is untested."

What teachers are asking for wouldn't make a dent in the $16 million fund balance that the district is currently carrying, Comerford said, which is three times more than what the state requires school districts to maintain to be fiscally responsible.

A call placed to D124 Superintendent Dr. Robert Machak on Monday night was not immediately returned.

Teachers will walk the picket line at Central Junior High School beginning at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, with picket lines forming in front of Northeast, Northwest, Southeast and Southwest elementary schools at 8:15 a.m.

Read Past Coverage of the Contract Negotiations:

  • Last Chance for EP Teachers and D124 to Avoid Strike
  • Scenes of a Protest: EP Teachers Stage Noisy Rally on 95th Street
  • Threat of EP Teachers Strike Looms
  • EP Teachers Set Oct. 2 Strike Date
  • No Agreement In D124 Contract Talks

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Do you think both sides are bargaining in good faith?

Resident of EP October 02, 2012 at 08:30 PM
It is definitely true that the union's tactics these past few weeks, wearing their blue shirts endlessly and rallying repeatedly, has rendered an intimidating environment for those who support anything other than the union demands. As individuals I don't think these teachers would behave this way, but there is some major group think happening. Some people on this Patch forum have called it mob mentality. Whatever it is, it is hostile. We are smart enough to keep our differing opinions more quiet, lest we suffer the wrath of the group. It seems civil discourse is hard to come by these days.
Concerned October 02, 2012 at 08:41 PM
Well said, resident of EP. I hope you've sent the board an email!
WorkerBee October 02, 2012 at 08:58 PM
Kathy F, You are missing the point....unions were formed to protect workers rights and prevent abuse but clearly that sense of power has gotten out of hand. These teachers are abusing me, the taxpayer. Go get another job if this one is not good enough, see where you end up!! Reality check....salary offers in the real world are just that...offers..take it or leave it. I see no need to learn to bargain as I am not greedy and would take my talents elsewhere if I felt so cheated! But again, I took pride in being a public servant, a term you clearly don't understand. This may be too much of an old school value for you, but many educated talented people commit themselves to this principal...the common good. I would hope that any one who serves the public, whether it be a fireman, police officer, teacher, nurse, etc believes this to some degree.
Kathy Fontaine October 02, 2012 at 09:22 PM
Bob, I did go and look at your web site. I was surprised to see that you yourself at one time were, or maybe still are, a teacher! I'm surprised that you would not feel that teachers need to be compensated and secure health benefits and retirement!! I would like to know if you will be drawing a retirement from not only your chosen first career as an engineer, but also from your teaching positions and, IF elected, your government position??? Seems as though you are certainly working toward enjoying your retirement!
Carolyn Cardenas October 02, 2012 at 09:33 PM
Bob, after reading this string of posts I have a few comments for you. 1) You stated that Lorraine Swanson blocked your pseudonym "Rock Bobster" simply because she chooses for any reason. I agree with Lorraine that if you are in politics you should voice your opinions openly and stand behind them. That is what I expect of anyone holding public office. 2) You explained that you used the pseudonym to avoid pesonal attacks. You personally had four posts that attacked people for their opinions. I know some people feel that your Hugo Chavez comment was racist. 3) You stated that you have supported OUR kids since 1977 and that you have paid more to Dist. 124 than what some of our homes are worth. Congratulations on your wealth! Do you own rental properties in EP? It is your choice to own property in EP, if you truly feel that you have been "heavily subsidizing" our children sell your property. That will fix that problem. 4) I appreciate your "typing slowly" so the rest of us can read your opinion. Perhaps you should type even slower so you do not have as many typos.
Stay strong October 02, 2012 at 09:54 PM
CQ well said , Bob I'm voting for you, Concerned will you marry me? I had a union friend tell me today that the teachers will get what they want, because the union always prevails. Well it's time to stop that trend here and now. 70 percent of the graduates from college cannot get a job, unemployment is at 9 percent, we still are in a recession as much as you are told we are not and families of laid off fathers and mothers are struggling to pay the mortgage and put food on the table. Someone needs a reality check and its not the school Board or the tax payers. It's the teachers who through their greed have lost all concern for the children they teach. They have lost all concern for the parents of the students they teach. They have lost all concern for the tax payer that pays them. All they care about is themselves. One thing they have done is open my eyes about how wonderful are catholic school teachers are. Theirs is a vocation, a dedication to their profession and the students they teach on a daily basis. So thank you to the facultys of Most Holy Redemmer , Queen of Martyrs , Brother Rice and Mother McCauley you truly give your profession the respect it deserves.
TM October 02, 2012 at 10:15 PM
Kathy F, very well said. As for Bob or Rock bobster, whichever you decide to go by this week, I think your comments on this one article may have lost you some votes. You sound like self centered, arrogant person. YOU can give your opinion but when others give it you have to ridicule them? I will certainly consider taking my kids out of the district if you are in office
mamadontplaythat October 03, 2012 at 12:52 AM
Bob, nooneyouknow, stay strong, CQM, concerned, resident of EP, Dan, Amy & FB It is nice to know that there are many others who share my point of view! Thanks for speaking up!!! Cheri McKeown (to make Mr. Valdez happy) p.s. Bob, you have my vote! Stay strong you are exactly right about catholic school teachers, thanks for pointing that out.
Kevin October 03, 2012 at 02:16 AM
Kathy, couldn't have said it better myself
Kevin October 03, 2012 at 02:22 AM
Greed?...You have to be kidding me...If you ever actually fairly compensated teachers for all they do, the city would go bankrupt...Love for these blowhards to actually try and teach...They'd go running for the hills after one day...Teachers, you're the best
R Gibbons October 03, 2012 at 02:29 AM
... and narcissism within these posts prevail.
thorn1 October 03, 2012 at 02:31 AM
Bob, I accepted your flyer from a couple of very nice people on Saturday while doing yard work. Rest assured you have 5 votes in this household.
R Gibbons October 03, 2012 at 02:37 AM
And you know this how?
Concerned October 03, 2012 at 02:48 AM
It sure is nice to know we're not alone! Together, with civility, we can explain what we think is wrong with this situation. There are just some people who will never get it, and that's too bad. But by sticking to facts, we can chip away at commonly held misconceptions. Keep at it, everyone!
WorkerBee October 03, 2012 at 03:26 AM
Yes Concerned, we as taxpayers have every right to question how our tax dollars are being spent and speak up over it. This is about greed and the teachers and company are just getting defensive. They look like fools in their boo hoo blue shirts claiming its all for the children. I get the impression that they believe no one else works as hard at their job as they do. And all this compensation is based on 9 months, with Thanksgiving, Christmas and spring break, to boot!
R Gibbons October 03, 2012 at 03:43 AM
Too bad you really don't know or understand CQM. Curious as to your employ? And name-calling really doesn't reflect intelligence.
R Gibbons October 03, 2012 at 04:00 AM
Reply is to Stay Strong...and you know this how? All of a sudden you choose to praise Parochial school teachers and criticize public school teachers? I would guess that every lay teacher in a Parochial school is supporting the public school teachers in their negotiations. And to explain further for your knowledge, a "lay teacher" are teachers in a Parochial setting that are not nuns. Try again! Your arguments are unsupported!
WorkerBee October 03, 2012 at 04:51 AM
R Gibbons....for years I worked in a government unit that enforced various laws against drug dealers, white collar criminals, and child pornographers to name a few. I worked with dedicated professionals from various state, local and federal agencies. Much time spent away from family and many late hours and never saw any one of my co workers run to a union looking for more. Took a break to raise my kids, teaching them early childhood basics, reading chief among them, as well as other excellent study habits that have given them the tools to achieve straight As. Went back to work with my sub certificate, serving elementary grades in Blue Island. Loved the challenge of classroom control and keeping the class on task honoring the teacher's lesson plan. LD BD kindergarten/1st grade was my favorite. Loved the diversity and differences in learning ability. Did that for 2 years, but was not able to get enough hours consistently. Lots of unemployed teachers needed the work, too. Decided to take a job at a local hospital, so that I could remain in the neighborhood while my kids complete their grammar school years. Meanwhile, my husband was laid off a few times due to the rough financial sector that employed him. Always went back to work, thankfully, but with pay cuts. I know about work ethic and understand this situation, have reviewed the sd website, observed the parties behavior, etc. I'm not name calling, simply stating what I see.
Ken Fryer October 03, 2012 at 06:01 AM
Bob, I can't tell you how disappointed I am in you not identifying yourself. Part of the reason I didn't respond to your post was you didn't put a name to it. I give you some credit for coming out but it's still upsetting. We both want 124 to avoid being like Mokena 159. How we get there is just as important as getting there. Fair? A paraprofessional making 12k a year isn't fair. Maybe it's not fair that taxpayers have to pay a stipend for retired teacher. But you won't talk it's your way or the highway. As you and I scratch our heads to figure out why in the world we can't get Mike Madigan out. Here's some advice: put the tea cup down and talk to people not at people.
Bob October 03, 2012 at 12:26 PM
Ummmm. I'm running for the state legislature, not the school Board. It seems you're the type of person who does no research when forming opinions, and really knows very little about which she speaks. That's pretty consistent with what I've seen in your posts!
Bob October 03, 2012 at 12:29 PM
Ken, I wanted this discussion to be about ideas, NOT about candidates and campaigning. I do enough of that outside this blog. As you can see from the posts above, who I am became a distraction from what I had to say. Do I have strong opinions on serious issues? YOU BET! But if you look at my posts I always show respect to posters who stick to the issue and have well reasoned points to discuss. I do, however, respond strongly to "haters". they shouldn't be given a pass for what they say.
Bob October 03, 2012 at 12:31 PM
Thank you., Kevin. As a former teacher I appreciate that comment!
Bob October 03, 2012 at 12:41 PM
Kathy, I'm not currently receiving any retirement benefits since I'm still working. While I was Teaching in a private school Iw as in a 401K plan where they matched my contributions up to 3% of my salary. That's about the same as in the enfineering profession. Actually, Kathy, one of the reasons I'm running to to PROVIDE a secure health care and penions system for our teachers. Over the last 10 years our pensions went from being a problem to a crisis under Madigan and Blago. End of Career "spiking" resulted in pensions being increased by about 25%. Teachers didn't pay in based on this kind of benefit so it had a DRAMATIC effect on pension liabilities. At the same time, Blago and Madigan were takiing "pension holidays" makin the situation worse. See my website www.bobshelstrom.com for my solutions to protect the teachers and make the systems solvent again
WorkerBee October 03, 2012 at 01:00 PM
Ken, let's be fair to the taxpayer. That's 12k for 9 mos not per year. There are many jobs out in the work force that require the same hard work and pay the same, for 12 months. These jobs offer a schedule that allows the parent to be home when their child is either off or out of school, as well. And so close to home. I know many that would jump at it, but very tight knit there in SD 124. Money does not grow on trees.
Brian October 03, 2012 at 04:17 PM
As "Bob" said at 7:21 am on Tuesday, October 2, 2012, "This will be my last post on the Patch."...I have counted at least 10 additional comments/posts. A true politician. He can't keep his word or his mouth closed.
Bob October 03, 2012 at 05:27 PM
Yeah Brian, like I'm going to sit here and let you jerks stupidly attack me without telling the truth and responding. I can stay away, but it seems like you turkeys can't resist bringing me back into this. You're a true idiot, Brian, for not figuring this out. Let me guess...you're a unionized "educator", right?
Bob October 03, 2012 at 05:37 PM
1) I have no problem standing up for what I believe, Carolyn. I've been published many times with a picture and my name. In case you don't know, I do not currently hold public office. 2) I guess racism is in the eye of the beholder. Hugo Chavez seems to be the best fit for Luciano,, as I don't think he's a murdering SOB socialist like Castro. 3) I have no problem paying my fair share to support the schools in 124, but I deeply resent people saying I should have no voice on how my money is spent. If you're not happy with the offer and administration in 124, I'd propose that YOU should move if you're not satisfied with the Board position. That will fix THAT problem! 4) "You stated that Lorraine Swanson blocked your pseudonym "Rock Bobster" simply because she chooses for any reason" English translation, please? People in glass houses.....
Bob October 03, 2012 at 05:40 PM
And when, Kathy, will the union see side of the taxpayers and chidlren who will have their programs cut and education diminished to give them raises beond what revenues will support? I've seen no e of that in any blog yet.
thorn1 October 03, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Keep the comments coming Bob. You sound great. You have my whole family's support.
Taxpaying Parent October 03, 2012 at 07:44 PM
Please see the latest post from the district webpage. I would really like to read the union's side of why they chose to walk that evening. http://www.d124.org/Strike/Media%20Release%2010%2003%2012%20(4).pdf I do find it sad that as a community we have resorted to viscious attacks for those not supporting the teachers. Just as the union has the right to strike, we as taxpayers of EP and parents of these affected students have the right to vocalize our opinions. I feel our teachers do a fantastic job very thrilled with the education that they provide to our chidren and I also feel the board's offer was perfectly acceptable. Benefits have been cut, that is the growing trend in all companies. They are not losing jobs, I believe both sides have agreed to the raises, etc, this is about insurance and retirement. They could of continued to teach and worked out these differences. I wonder how this affects the kids, they see the teachers they love walk off and do not understand why. They may see their parents or other adults getting very emotional and at times nasty about this strike. What is this strike teaching our children about trying your best no matter what? What is this strike teaching our children about treat others the way you want to be treated? What is this strike teaching our children about the rules they are to follow at school 'PBIS' which is drilled into their heads daily. Be Responsible, Be Ready and Be Respectful.

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