One hundred and 72 Rockford School District clerical workers didn't show up for work Tuesday morning. Tuesday marks day one of the Educational Office Personnel Association Union strike, and workers are digging in for the long haul.
Union members gathered at a park Tuesday morning to discuss their plan of attack and strategy for getting the benefits they say they deserve.
"I'm totally disgusted. I can't believe they would think our work would be that easy. I feel they give more to others, and secretaries are looked upon like go ahead and do it," said Sara Debenedetto, Summerdale Elementary secretary.
The workers say a strike is extreme but they're tired of being on the back burner.
"Because we're the smallest union. And as you can tell we're mostly all women and I think they're walking all over us right now," said Peggy Luter, Fairview secretary.
The sticking points for union members are over the rate of salary increase and health insurance costs.
"All we really expect is what the district offered to the other employee groups. We're not asking for any more than that and we're frankly not going to settle for any less than that," said Jeff Middleton, Union representative.
"We believe it's an offer that most people in private industry would find tremendously fair and equitable. Right now we're just waiting to hear back from the union," said Jim Jennings, Rockford School District.
Many of these workers say they're being treated like second-class citizens when they feel like the backbone of Rockford Schools
"We are the glue that holds the schools together. We answer the phones. We take care of sick kids. We calm angry parents. We're the first line of defense," Luter said.
Union Representative Jeff Middleton says he's ready to go back to the bargaining table whenever the district wants to begin negotiating again, until a decision is reached.