Champaign Teachers Union Plans Strike Vote
The president of the Champaign Federation of Teachers Local 1925 says a few sticking points remain as talks with Unit 4 administrators continue with a federal mediator. A strike vote is planned for Wednesday afternoon, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a strike will actually take place. Union President Jennifer White says they've come to terms in some areas, including health insurance rates for its more than 800 members.
She says after looking at other insurers, the CFT ultimately saved over $300-thousand by staying with Health Alliance.
The union has also agreed with Unit 4 on increasing the allotment for clubs, not only sports, but arts groups. White says those funds should not only help compensate sponsors, but may allow those groups to reach new audiences.
But she says the two sides remain at odds over district plans to extend the school day as long as 40 minutes, including longer lunch periods. She says there’s not enough teeth in those plans.
“So how does this effect (employees) – if they do extend lunches, what does that do to your cafeteria workers’ schedule?," she said. "It’s lengthening their day as well. It’s your bus driver’s schedules – starting the day, ending later. And so given none of those conversations have ever been had, we didn’t feel like this was the appropriate place to start the conversation.”
White also cites concerns with a district proposal to provide higher salaries to what it terms ‘hard to fill’ positions. She says there no specifics for implementing a plan she calls "very ambiguous."
"They (Unit 4) haven't really been able to define for us what hard to fill really means," White said. "They didn't give us a realistic plan of how they would actually implement this. And so we felt this just creates the potential for favoritism and bias, and who's to say - right now - any teaching position can be hard to fill. I'm sure if you look at the Unit 4 postings, there's plenty of random positions that are still open."
Unit 4 School Board President Chris Kloppel released a statement last week.
"The Board of Education continues to come to the table with modified proposals to find common ground," he said. "While we are aware that CFT plans to take a strike authorization vote next week, we remain committed to negotiating in good faith toward a fair contract for our teachers."
The two sides continue talks with the mediator September 20th. White says if no progress is made by then, proposals from both sides will be on public display for a week, as required by law before a strike can take place.