Union Employees Hold Informational Picket

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Freeport superintendent Peter Flynn says the district received formal notice Monday on the union's intent to strike. And to prove that, they started with an informational picket.

For nearly 170 Freeport School District employees their contract expired in June of 2002. And after 15 negotiation sessions between the Freeport School District and union negotiators an agreement has yet to be made. So, union members have begun walking to make their voices heard.

"What does walking prove? That we are united and that we all want the same thing. Respect is one of our main things that we want. We want to know that we are needed and that they will stand behind us. These are the people that stand behind us," said Betty Kundert, union member.

Solidarity and equity, that's the union members motto in order to get what they feel they deserve. And what they feel they deserve are fair and consistent wages along with health benefits. But, if an agreement isn't reached soon they're ready to strike. Leaving the students without some familiar faces working at school.

"We hope to settle this because we feel that our jobs are important. And that it wouldn't be good for the students not to have our peer educators there working there side by side. The food people making their food. And we feel that it's important and if the board feels that we are important enough then they'll sit down and work with us," said Susan Walt, unit chairman.

The Freeport School Board says they'll continue to work with union negotiators and hope to resolve the contract dispute. But, if the union does strike the board says school will carry on as usual.

"If they strike obviously we will have to find some replacements for classroom aides, food service, and hall security. But, we do intend to continue having classes, serving food, and meeting students needs," said Joe Kanosky, Freeport school board chair.

In case of a strike, the school board has already begun screening substitute employees to fill vacated positions, and they say all services will continue to be provided to the students.

Thursday night the union will meet to discuss what their next move will be; whether or not to strike. But, Jan. 24 is the earliest date that District 145 employees could hit the picket lines.