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District 86 teachers vote to strike, board reacts

Published: Tuesday, June 10, 2014 8:55 a.m. CST • Updated: Friday, July 25, 2014 4:39 a.m. CST

HINSDALE – The Hinsdale High School Teachers Association, the bargaining representative of the district's 377 teachers, voted to strike if a new contract agreement is not met by June 30.

While teachers cannot legally strike prior to the expiration of the current contract on June 30, and not before following certain statutory procedures such as filing a notice of intent to strike, the move comes in the midst of bargaining sessions between the district and the teachers association.

District 86 School Board President Richard Skoda said the board and the teachers association commenced formal collective bargaining in March, one of the earliest starts to negotiations in the last two decades, according to Skoda.

This year, however, the school board elected to get the contract in place by the start of school and, in turn, the association requested federal mediation. The board agreed, hoping it would expedite the process, he said.

The first mediation session was set for June 10, but the board "insisted" on an earlier first session, which occurred May 27, according to Skoda. The next two mediation sessions are set for June 10 and 26.

When word of a vote to strike reached the board and administrators, members "shocked and disappointed" by the decision. Still, Skoda remains hopeful that upcoming mediation sessions will help the situation.

"The board is hopeful that at the June 10 mediation that it will be productive and the association will respond to our offer," he said.

Skoda also addressed a rumor that the board is seeking a 5 percent wage cut from the teachers.

"The board from day one never saw a decrease in salary, and in case and point, on May 27 offered a significant wage increase," he said. "The current contract expires on June 30. The board intends to be available throughout the entirety of the summer in order to expedite this process to a fruitful conclusion."

On Monday, Skoda released a media statement in regards to the strike, leaving board member Jennifer Planson wondering why fellow members of the board were not notified. She also said there were elements of the release that she found troubling, including the reference to Karen Lewis.

"In a tactic reminiscent of Karen Lewis and the Chicago Teachers’ Union, Naomi Shepherd, the National Education Association representative of the District 86 teachers, called for the strike vote before the end of the current school year and prior to the expiration date of the current contract between the board and its teachers," read the news release from Skoda.

Planson also took exception to a portion in the release that labeled, "bargaining in public."

"The strike vote would be all the more perplexing because the teachers have yet to modify their initial monetary proposal dated March 5, 2014, requesting salary increases that would add 5.45 percent to teacher salary costs in the first year for District 86 teachers earning on average $111,000."

"To me, that is bargaining in public and I don't know if that's against the law, but it seems like that's not good faith bargaining," Planson said. "A press release of that nature is fueling the fire and not setting a positive tone going forward in mediation."

While board member Kay Gallo was not bothered by the substance of Skoda's release, she wishes she was notified before the statement was sent.

"A little communication among the seven of us might do well, because more communication means you'll have less questioning going on," she said.

In Skoda's statement, he said that the association's action does not "necessarily" mean that a strike will occur. The District 86 teachers may not legally strike prior to the expiration of the current contract on June 30, and not before following certain statutory procedures including notice of intent to strike.

"The board's No. 1 goal remains providing excellent and uninterrupted education to our students," he said.

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