Friday, August 15, 2014

Galesburg Teacher Strike

  • District 205 teachers reject offer

By  By Antwon R. Martin
The Register-Mail 

GALESBURG — Teachers rejected a contract offer late Tuesday night from District 205, which means they will be on the picket line Wednesday morning, just one day before school was to begin.

It’s the first strike in the district in nearly 37 years.

Following more than 15 hours of mediation over the past two days and a three-and-a-half hour meeting Tuesday evening, the Galesburg Education Union membership turned down a proposal from the District 205 Board of Education without a vote. As they exited First Lutheran Church after 9 p.m. Tuesday, the teachers, professionals and paraprofessionals carried signs for Wednesday’s picket.

“The proposal does not adequately address safe working conditions for educators and students,” GEA Spokeswoman Tami Qualls said, reading from the union’s prepared news release. “Fair working conditions such as just cause for dismissal and the number of days and hours employed are not included.”

Calling the school board’s excuse of state finances an “old standby,” Qualls described the GEA membership’s issues as having nothing to do with money but instead they “deal with respect and concern for what is best for our students and our community.”

After the board’s proposal was explained to teachers, Qualls said, the membership decided “it was not an offer that we felt was worthwhile to vote on.”

Teachers have been given picketing assignments with most teachers posting at their respective schools. Depending on what school teachers are assigned to, the picketing will begin as early as 7 a.m. Wednesday.

Teachers will not be paid during the strike, though Illinois Education Labor Board policies state that teachers must strike 10 days and have missed a pay check in order to qualify for 0 percent loans to cover wages.

Should the strike continue into Thursday’s first day of classes, students will not be attending classes.

No negotiation times have been planned yet, though both sides have said they intend to meet and resolve the conflict.

“We are doing what we think is best for our students and our community,” Qualls said.

Representatives for the school board were in a closed session meeting that started at 8:30 p.m. and could not be reached for comment.

In a news conference following a four-hour mediation session earlier in the day Tuesday, Luan Statham, chief negotiator for the teachers’ union, was not confident in a resolution being struck before the start of school.

“If our membership does not vote to accept a proposal from them (the board), then we will go on strike tomorrow (Wednesday), which is the teachers’ first day,” Statham said. “We will keep on going until we reach a settlement. The kids are supposed to come back on Thursday, so there is a possibility that they won’t be there Thursday.”

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