District 203 Teachers Union Won’t Strike on First Day of School

No Strike on First Day

Though the Naperville Unit Education Association (NUEA), which represents 1,500 Naperville School District 203 educators, filed an intent to strike, that won’t happen on the first day of school.

Legally, a strike can’t occur until both the district’s and union’s proposals have been published on the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board for the public for 14 days.

The proposals were supposed to be posted on the IELRB website by August 5, but were not published until August 10 for reasons unknown to NUEA. Because of this, on August 9 District 203 said in a press release that the group’s notice to strike is illegal. Iverson said filing an intent to strike is not illegal, but striking before the 14 days is.

Strike Still Possible

NUEA does not plan to strike on the first day of school, which is August 19, for this reason. But a strike is still possible. Since the proposals are now published, a strike can be initiated as early as August 25, according to Iverson.

“We know we have an intent to strike and it’s a legal intent to strike. We just don’t have a plan of action as far as whether [or] when that will happen,” said Iverson. “We now have a timeframe where something could happen but [you] certainly shouldn’t read that as a commitment that will happen on that day.”

District 203 and the union have been in negotiations since January. Last month, an independent federal mediator was brought in to help both sides reach an agreement. Their most recent meeting was August 9.

“We made very minimal progress I would say but we had some good discussion on the issues that are outstanding,” said Iverson. “We’re just not there yet.”

Key Issues

The two main issues preventing an agreement between both sides is salary and the use of accumulated sick days during FMLA.

District 203’s current practice allows for the use of 30 sick days after the birth or adoption of a child. FMLA provides up to 12 weeks but employers don’t have to let employees use sick days for that whole time.

“We believe that it should be a practice of District 203 to allow all of its employees to use the full 12 weeks of sick days,” said Iverson. “And that’s just if you have them. We’re not actually asking for any extra sick days, we’re just simply asking for the ability to use the ones that we already have.”

District 203 said in a press release that the union is “regressing on its proposal.”

“Last week, the union proposed to use 35 paid sick days post-childbirth for non-medical purposes,” said District 203. “In its most recent proposal, the union has increased its demand to up to 60 paid sick days post-childbirth.”

At the August 2 board of education meeting board president Kristin Fitzgerald provided some highlights from the board’s current proposal. These include an increase of sick days in the first year from 15 to 20, accrue five more unused sick days, increase of paid time off for non-medical parental leave from 30 to 35 days, and raises for every educator every year.

Teachers’ contracts expired on June 30. According to District 203, “it is common for teachers to return to the classroom without disruption after a contract has expired.”

Iverson is hopeful an agreement can be made between the union and district.

“Nobody wants to strike,” said Iverson. “We are doing everything we possibly can to avoid it.”

More Negotiating Sessions Scheduled

Another negotiating session with the mediator has been scheduled for August 13. Additional sessions are scheduled if needed for August 17 and August 18.

“The board is willing to meet as frequently as needed and for as long as it takes to reach a fair and fiscally responsible multi-year contract agreement that serves the best interests of all stakeholders – students, parents, teachers, and the taxpayer community,” said District 203 in a post.

Iverson said the union is also willing to meet as many times as necessary.

Naperville News 17’s Aysha Ashley Househ reports.

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