WEST CHICAGO – The West Chicago High School Teachers’ Association (WCHSTA) is now “working to terms,” which means all members will only be working during paid hours on certain days of the week. Teachers will now arrive at school no earlier than 7:30 a.m. and will leave immediately at 3:10 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The only members exempt from this action are those who have paid assignments before 7:30 a.m. and after 3:10 p.m.
“Our students always come first, but we are tired of the board of education putting teachers, and the students we care about, last. We are through working extra hours without being paid,” WCHSTA President Brad Larson said. “Until the board appropriately recognizes the hard work of our teachers and what we do for our students, we are going to give the district exactly what it’s paying for.”
The “working to terms” action comes a week after the WCHSTA membership voted without opposition to authorize a strike. WCHSTA is a group of 141 teachers at Community High School in West Chicago and is responsible for the education of 2,082 students from West Chicago, Winfield and Carol Stream. They have been working without a contract since the beginning of the school year. Negotiations with the D94 Board started in April of 2016.
Salary remains a point of contention in contract negotiations between the D94 board and the teachers. WCHSTA’s last offer is asking for an average, annual 4.25 percent pay increase for four years. The BOE’s latest offer is for an average, annual 3 percent pay increase for four years. It’s not just about the numbers. WCHSTA is asking for step increases, while the board is focused on a salary formula based on the consumer price index (CPI) to determine the cost of each teacher’s salary individually. The formula is not designed to retain teachers because WCHSTA members would earn smaller annual salary increases the more years they work.
“This is not about money. We know the district has the money to meet our requests without raising taxes. This is clearly an attempt to divide our membership and break up our union,” Larson said. “We won’t stand for it. Our teachers and students and the community deserve better. District 94 is able to offer a salary that both attracts and retains quality professionals so we can continue providing an excellent education. The board of education, under the leadership of its president, Gary Saake, has chosen to drag out this process with proposals that only include concessions when it could have resolved the remaining issues months ago.”
The next bargaining date is Feb. 12 at 6:00 p.m. at the District 94 Administration Center (157 W. Washington St., West Chicago). In hopes of achieving a fair contract settlement, the members of the WCHSTA plan to hold a candlelight vigil outside the Administration Center while bargaining takes place. The first day the teachers can legally go on strike is also Feb. 12, although no strike date has been set as of yet.
The 135,000 member Illinois Education Association (IEA-NEA) is the state’s largest education employee’s organization. IEA represents preK-12 teachers outside of the city of Chicago and education support staff, higher education faculty, retired education employees and students preparing to become teachers, statewide.