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.
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