Union chief: Strike possible

January 31, 2019

KANKAKEE — The head of the Kankakee teachers union said Wednesday a strike still could happen this year.

As she noted earlier this week, Beth Anderson, president of the Kankakee Federation of Teachers, said the union has reached a tentative agreement with the Kankakee School District.

She said a Daily Journal online headline, “Teachers likely to avoid strike,” was misleading to the public, adding members have rejected tentative deals thrice before.

Anderson said the union plans to present the latest proposal to its membership for a vote, which has not been scheduled yet. If a simple majority votes in favor, then the agreement will be ratified with board approval.

However, if members reject the deal, an impasse will be declared, Anderson said. Seven days later, the two sides will submit their final offers. Seven days after the submission, the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board will publish the final offers.

Fourteen days after that, a strike can take place, Anderson said.

The union is participating in mediation with a federal mediator.

Superintendent Genevra Walters said last week the union and district were in mediation.

“We’re back at the table figuring out compromises. I think we’re really close to finalizing what we can compromise on,” Walters said in an interview.

In late November, members of the Kankakee teachers union rejected a proposed contract and authorized a strike, though that didn’t make a walkout inevitable. The vote was 174-107 against the contract. It was the third time the union membership turned down an offer.

The two sides have yet to declare an official impasse. It’s rare for school labor disputes to reach an impasse that results in posting of final offers.

The last Kankakee district proposal would have given teachers at least 2 percent more in salary for the current school year, with some teachers getting more depending on experience. The following years, teachers would have received raises of 2 percent, 2.5 percent and 3 percent.

The last Kankakee teachers strike was in January 2010, when union members walked out for four days until they overwhelmingly approved a contract.

The average teacher salary in the district is $54,579, lower than the statewide average of $65,721, according to the Illinois School Board of Education’s website. The district has 324 teachers, the site says.

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