Dist. 205 Unions Address School Board

UPDATE: Hundreds of staff members in District 205 say they feel disrespected as administrators threaten to end contracts with two of its unions. That's why more than a dozen people addressed board members at tonight's school board meeting, in support of contracts for paraprofessionals and food service workers.

Paraprofessionals make anywhere from $9.50 to $11.50 an hour and many haven't received raises in five years. But the bargaining issue now seems to be time. The district says it's getting little feedback from unions on their proposals and that the unions have been postponing negotiation sessions, that's why the district set a contract termination date of July 16th.

But paras say they're dealing with short sessions, only two hours, which isn't enough time to bargain.

"Negotiating is a give and take and I realize that and I know the board realizes that, but I feel like they're trying to cram things down our throat and not even giving us a chance to respond to some of it," said Elizabeth Christensen, President of AFSCME Local 692.

Interim Superintendent Dr. Robert Willis said, "I mean it's been close to a year now that we've been negotiating with this group. It's time to start bargaining in good faith, it's time to reach an agreement."

Christensen says it's hard to make everyone's schedule work, especially now that they're bringing in a federal mediator, that's why she's requested longer sessions, which is supposed to start in the middle of July.

There are now five bargaining sessions set for July. The next one is scheduled for July 11th.

ROCKFORD (WIFR) – The Rockford School District threatens to end its contract with two local unions after more than nine months of negotiations. It’s possible this move might be what it takes to end the standstill.
The two unions involved represent more than 600 food service workers, secretaries, and paraprofessionals. They say since August, there has only been a pair of sessions to discuss contracts.

“What’s really been a hindrance to getting to an agreement is the district’s reluctance to meet for more than 2 hours at any given time,” said Ed Sadlowski, AFSCME Staff Representative.

Those sessions include a lot of debate over pay. The unions say there hasn’t been a raise in five years and most workers make less than $10 an hour. Employees say these wages keep them close to poverty and that’s unfair since salaries have been raised for certain administrators. The administration says they have presented offers to the union but haven’t gotten any feedback. That’s why the school board made the move to end the contract, as a way to get both sides to the table.

“We really believe that we can come to a good win-win solution for our paraprofessionals. We are really excited to continue to work at the bargaining table to make that happen and this is just a step in that process, but we really do believe we’re going to get there,” said Dr. Ehren Jarret.

One sign they will get there, one of the unions set up five bargaining sessions in July following the termination notice from the school board. Those meetings will include a federal mediator.

If the union does not approve the district’s best and final offer, it will still be put in place on July 16th, even without the union’s approval. Members from both unions plan to attend tonight’s school board meeting to make their case for better pay and benefits.

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