CHICAGO – Cook County Judge Neil Cohen on Tuesday entered an order to dismiss a complaint filed by the board of education for Community Consolidated School District 15 to prevent certain Educational Support Personnel Association (ESPA) members from going on strike.
The Illinois Education Association (IEA), ESPA’s parent organization, was notified on Oct. 16 that attorneys for District 15 filed a motion for injunctive relief and a corresponding motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO) seeking to prohibit 168 ESPA members from engaging in any work stoppage. The district contended that a strike by these 168 ESPA members, of the 454 total who went on strike, constituted a clear and present danger to the health or safety of the public under the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act (the “IELRA”), 115 ILCS 5/13(b).
“This is a victory for every working man and woman in the state of Illinois. Today’s court ruling reaffirms what we’ve always believed, our members have a right to go on strike, labor disputes should be resolved by the parties bargaining in good faith and employers cannot go to court to relieve themselves of that obligation,” IEA spokesperson Bridget Shanahan said. “While today is an important win for ESPA and the entire IEA family, we will continue to focus on the task at hand, which is coming to a fair agreement for our ESPA members who are still without a contract.”
The 168 ESPA members named in the motion originally went back to work on Oct. 17 when the TRO was granted. The rest of ESPA’s 268 members remained on the picket line. However, on Oct. 24, Cohen lifted the TRO when he concluded that the district was not able to establish that the strike threatened public health or safety, which meant striking ESPA nurses and classroom aides were able to rejoin their fellow members on the picket line. The strike ended on Oct. 30 when ESPA members went back to work without a contract.
ESPA includes nurses, classroom aides, sign language interpreters, clericals and secretaries who work with the district’s most vulnerable students, including students with behavioral problems and those with special needs. ESPA is seeking a 2.5 percent wage increase on average over five years for its members, many of whom make between $11 and $13 an hour.
The next contract negotiation session is set for 5:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. this evening. It will be at the District 15 Administration Building at 580 N. 1st Bank Drive in Palatine.