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Teachers Strike Goes On For Third Day

Meeting starts off acrimoniously when union team claims D124 school board's attorney verbally attacked, teachers claim. Another round of contract talks scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

Evergreen Park elementary school teachers and professionals will head back to the picket line on Thursday, after contract talks broke up in the early morning hours following nine hours of deliberation.

Members of the Evergreen Park Federation of Teachers bargaining team met at Village Hall for a hastily called face-to-face sitdown by the D124 school board to discuss insurance—a major sticking point in contract talks.

The teachers and paraprofessionals from Dist. 124's five public grammar  schools have been on strike since Tuesday.

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While some progress was made, the talks left a mark after the union’s bargaining team alleged that D124 school board attorney, Alan Sraga, verbally attacked the teachers.

“He began screaming at the top of his lungs at the team and being what we considered verbally abusive,” an angry Dave Comerford said, spokesman for the Illinois Federation of Teachers. “The teachers team should have gotten up and walked out, but to their credit they stayed.”

Comerford said he thought that major movement had been made but it did not come without a price. After what the union members claim was a verbal attack by Sraga, the teachers said they would no longer bargain in the same room with the school district board.

“Because of the attorney’s horrible behavior we won’t meet face to face with them,” Comerford said. “When it reaches the level when we’re so disrespected it takes away one more option.”

The federal mediator will now be going back and forth delivering offers and counter offers to each side.

“It’s not going to be forgotten,” Comerford added. “The worst part is that the board just let it happen.”

Both sides dealt in health insurance in an attempt to break the deadlock and move on to other contractual issues. Contract talks went two roads, with the teachers union making the last counter offer.

School board members’ called it quits for the night, saying they needed to “crunch some numbers.” The union's offer remains on the table until 5 p.m. Friday.

Another round of contract negotiations are scheduled to take place Thursday at 4:30 p.m., this time at Central Junior High School. The union’s bargaining team has agreed to break the picket line this evening to avoid having to drive to the federal mediator’s office in Hinsdale, while both sides hunt for another neutral venue.

Evergreen Park’s striking teachers are due back on the picket line at 6:30 a.m. today. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten is expected to drop by in the early after to offer support to the teachers.

Asked if the Evergreen Park teachers strike was going to be nasty, Comerford said that it was starting to look that way.

“I’ve seen some bad ones in 16 years statewide, but I’ve never seen where were tonight meeting face to face,” he said. “It gets heated and insulting but not to tonight’s level. I don’t think people will understand how that is.”

Because of the late hour, calls could not be immediately placed to the school board or Sraga. Evergreen Park Patch will update the story later Thursday.

Read Patch's ongoing strike coverage:

  • EP Students Join Teachers on Picket Line
  • D124 Plays Hardball With EP Teachers Union
  • Strike On: EP Teachers Walk Picket Line
  • 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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CQM October 04, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Let me rephrase for those that want to continue to deflect. I have no respect for any one that walks off their job and still expects to be paid for it, especially, with 8.3 unemployment. You are dedicated to yourself when you do that. Children should not be used as bargaining chips, the onus is on the teacher...you left your job. The tax base is a limited entity, and therefore your demands need to have limits. The surplus exists because of responsible governing, and I am thankful for that...it exist because someone is saying no...again, why should health care costs go up for me and most people I know but yet I'm expected to fund your demand. No way.
J. Doyle October 04, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Dr. Machak made it very clear at the impromptu meeting yesterday that there have been no "face to face" meetings between the two sides in quite some time. Therefore, why is Mr. Cumerford now announcing to the media that the school board and school union are now unable to meet face to face? Furthermore, from what I understand, both sides were heated in their discussion, with the union doing just as much shouting as the district's attorney. This is a very volatile time. For everyone. The teacher's union has proudly stated, both verabally and in print, that they are doing this for the kids. Quite frankly, no, you're not. If this were being done in the best interest of my children, you would be negotiating in the afternoons and evenings and teaching during the day. If this were being done in the best interest of my children, you would not have spent the last month involving my children in your agenda and inviting them to join you on a picket line. If this were being done in the best interest of my children, you would be practicing the good behavior you strive to achieve through the PBIS curriculum, not screaming on street corners about our friends and neighbors needing to be overthrown because you are not getting what you want. If this were being done in the best interest of my children, you would be better examples of how to behave in a crisis situation. You would behave calmly, fairly,and be capable of seeing both sides of a situation.
jane October 04, 2012 at 06:29 PM
believe it it is true
EP Lover October 04, 2012 at 06:29 PM
Well said J Doyle!
jane October 04, 2012 at 06:30 PM
the disrespect towards this teachers union by the school board is insane. They should be ashamed of themselves
Cy October 04, 2012 at 06:39 PM
As a father and the husband of a Board member I would also please ask that the teachers take our phones number off picket signs. If possible can the Patch also remove the video link? Thanks,
Cy October 04, 2012 at 06:53 PM
sorry for the typo - meant to say our phone numbers. Cy Rohan
EPresident October 04, 2012 at 06:53 PM
The signs with the numbers were parents and students earlier today, when I went past Central.
daniel m October 04, 2012 at 07:30 PM
Thank you. Whatever sympathy the teachers could be gaining is getting destroyed because of all their grandstanding. I know it's "the union way", and although it is not illegal, it is completely the wrong message the educators should be bringing to the kids. Thank you again, J. Doyle, for one of the most reasonable comments here.
Resident of EP October 04, 2012 at 08:00 PM
Common ground exists amongst all of us. We care about our children, our schools, our community, our real estate values. Surely everyone can stand together to reach a fair and equitable agreement. There is good news: Look at the union's offer (Attachment C) and the Board's offer (Attachment D on the d124 website) and you will see they are nearly identical. There are only two differences: the board wants a 4 year contract, the union 3. And the board wants the PPO family insurance to be at 65/15% contributions beginning in 2014, while the union prefers to keep it to 70/30. The two sides are so close, surely an agreement can be reached.
Resident of EP October 04, 2012 at 08:04 PM
I support your request. No one should be doing this. The parents made an error, if they are, in fact, responsible. The leaders of the strike should have to approve all signage. This never should have been allowed. I'm sorry for you and your family and thank Kathy for her work on our district's behalf.
nooneyouknow October 04, 2012 at 08:17 PM
I agree that the progress on insurance is good news, but keep in mind that there are still several unresolved major issues. I will be very surprised - but pleasantly so! - if the kids are back in school by Tuesday.
SC October 04, 2012 at 08:30 PM
We all have an idea what teachers do! This is the lamest response and I am tired of hearing about it. A lot of people in EP have labor intensive, demanding jobs and are exhausted when we get home at the end of a long day. The difference is we don't continuously whine about it and expect sympathy because of the jobs we have selected. I am an RN. It is demanding, both emotionally and physically. And once again, I would never just walk out on my patients. This strike is ridiculous, the same as the CPS strike. You are all replaceable. Show up to work and do your job, or find a new career.
Resident of EP October 04, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Yes, you are correct, an agreement about all 3 issues (salary, pension and health insurance) is what we need. However, last night's proposed contract by the union was the first time it changed its health insurance offer since August 30th. This is major movement on the union's side and I give them credit for having made it. I also give the board credit for having moved toward the union's latest proposal. The union's last offer that addressed salaries did not tie salary raises to CPI, which seems to be a very important thing from the board's perspective. However, the salary issue didn't look to be that far apart, either. The biggest bridge to be built here seems to be in the pension category, specifically, the severance payments and health insurance payments for retirees. Let's stay positive. Both sides have moved their positions substantially. Thank you to both sides and keep working on it. You can reach an agreement. Despite the rancor you are getting there. Bring your best selves to the tables, both sides take a deep breath, and your contract will be settled.
Southside October 04, 2012 at 08:43 PM
By the tone of your sarcasm, you are obviously against the people who teach your children. They worked over a month into the school year while they worked and waited for a deal both sides could agree on. How long are they suppose to wait? They were insulted before they ever struck on Facebook and in these comment pages after every story. That is not rumor but fact. Every time they speak someone cries lies. They are professionals who deserve a lot better than they've been given. They are not in school right now but the board doesn't meet them till late afternoon? Why isn't the board working around the clock to resolve this? And if you think the board shouldn't budge and teachers should be unhappy at work, than you care the least about you kids' education.
Mike Fitzpatrick October 04, 2012 at 11:48 PM
as someone who know this lawyer, his behavior does not surprise me at all-- he's just a bully. good lawyers don't need to resort to that kind of behavior-- but wait-- he's paid by the hour- so it's in his best interest to not get a settlement- what? wait? does that make any sense?
J. Doyle October 05, 2012 at 12:25 AM
My previous comment was in no way meant to be seen as sarcastic. On the contrary, I am completely behind the teachers of my children. I have lived in EP for 12 years and have always been unfailingly supportive of the teachers. I have tried to remain unbiased for the past 6 months as I have sat at schoolboard meetings listening to both sides of a very explosive situation. That being said, in response to "how long were they suppose[d] to wait," there is no clear answer. For as long as it takes, I guess. I believe they should have waited until a decision was reached that was acceptable to both sides. I believe if they want to be treated as professionals, they need to behave as professionals AT ALL TIMES when in the public eye, and that has not been the case. It is NOT professional to devote hours of instructional time a week inviting other people's children to walk a picket line. Likewise, it is NOT professional to walk away from your job in the middle of it-- for any reason. If they deserve more than they are being given, then they need to be respectful of the children they are affecting with this work stoppage, because they certainly deserve more than they are being given! The ramifications of this strike will be far reaching and felt by everyone for a long time to come. Today was supposed to be the 8th graders step-up day at the high school. Tuesday was supposed to be basketball try-outs at CJHS. How will our kids be compensated for those losses?
J. Doyle October 05, 2012 at 12:43 AM
Furthermore, the teachers chose to not be in school right now. The schoolboard, as elected volunteers, do not have that luxury. They are also all professionals, but they have chosen to work said jobs during the day and take care of schoolboard business in the evenings, as I believe the teachers should also have chosen as their course of action. I think that would have been respectful on both sides. I have certainly not said that the schoolboard shouldn't budge; I think there is room to move on both sides. Additionally, I have maintained a civil tone as I have shared my opinions throughout today on this forum. DO NOT question my devotion to the education and well being of my children. If their teachers are unhappy at work, there are options available to them: stick it out and negotiate with the schoolboard until an acceptable compromise can be reached, or quit your job and find a new one. I believe those would both have been professional.
KB October 05, 2012 at 01:49 AM
This means nothing. These people are not on the level of teachers. They are no different than the higher ups that run the companies everyone else works for. They are not public employees. What do their salaries have anything to do with what’s going on. You mine as well post the salaries of all the bosses of every company in the nation and hate on them too. Nice try though.
mamadontplaythat October 05, 2012 at 02:15 AM
I agree with SC!
mamadontplaythat October 05, 2012 at 02:32 AM
Southside, are you serious? 1. Why would you throw in "union" police officers like they are going to be biased to the teachers case and not do their job or something? 2. "and there isn't one catholic school teacher that wouldn't take a union teacher salary and benefits if they had the chance" Obviously, if they wanted that they WOULD be a union public school teacher but for some people it isn't all about the money or benefits, they just love to teach and that is why they CHOOSE to stay in catholic schools.
Concerned October 05, 2012 at 03:16 AM
KB - Union leaders most certainly are public employees. Where do you think the money comes for their salaries? First I (the "public") pay my property tax, then a large portion of that goes towards the public schools in my district. The district then allocates a large portion of what they receive to pay teachers salaries. The union then takes their cut, it the form of dues. They then use that money to pay handsome salaries to their leaders. Oh, and even more insulting to me, they use all the rest of their dues to contribute to politicians who will then do their bidding for them, most of which I would never vote for myself. The union backed guys usually win, because how can an opponent make up for the kind of money they contribute? How is that for taxation without representation for you? Read what President FD Roosevelt had to say about public sector unions. He knew it was an unholy alliance even back then.
R Gibbons October 05, 2012 at 03:41 AM
You sound like "Bob". Are you "Bob"?
R Gibbons October 05, 2012 at 04:02 AM
Cathleen - very good points. Thank you for your comments.
R Gibbons October 05, 2012 at 04:10 AM
JDoyle - they did! And they are! And they are within their rights in this great country to strike.
KB October 05, 2012 at 11:37 AM
Concerned, So you are claiming that that because teachers take a portion of their salary to pay dues that it turn pay for the salaries of the Union Officials, that makes the Officials public employees? That is idiotic. If that were the case, the supermarket where the teachers buy their groceries, the gas station where they buy their gas, the clothing store where they buy their cloths, are all publicly funded because the teachers use their salaries to buy good from them which pays their employee’s salaries. Union officials are not public employees. Teachers have every right to take their money they earn, and spend it whatever way they want, and that doesn’t mean the tax dollars are funding the people/places/organizations where they spend it. 124 teachers do not, by law, have to give any union any money. It is their choice to do so. They can choose to join another union if they want, or be an independent teachers organization. Please, go to the school proposed budget on the district website, look under the ESTIMATED DISBURSEMENTS/EXPENDITURES, and tell me the total money they project will go towards union representation for the teachers this year. You apparently have no idea what being a public employee means.
Concerned October 06, 2012 at 01:11 PM
@KB... Of course union leaders aren't "public employees", but the sole source of union income (that I know of) is from teachers salaries, which are paid with tax dollars. A teacher paying money to the union is different than them going to buy shoes because the union is a lobby! They actively work to get candidates elected who will help them move their own agenda forward. The unions agenda is not my agenda, and yet there is no recourse for me. I have to continue paying my taxes, and those dollars will get filtered through the teachers to the union. It's not like a business where you can not purchase their product or service if you don't like where they donate a portion of their profits (remember chick fil a?). Who is representing me as to how my tax dollars are spent in the union?
Concerned October 09, 2012 at 03:13 PM
I think it's time to let the EPFT know that the silent majority exists, contrary to what you may think after reading the above article. Please continue to email the board (d124.org) with your support, but now also send an email to epft124@gmail.com.
John Moonan October 18, 2012 at 02:29 AM
http://southtownstar.suntimes.com/opinions/15794711-474/teachers-strikes-sign-of-future.html
EP95 October 18, 2012 at 03:18 AM
That piece is a riot, thanks for the laugh!

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