Hundreds of teachers and other staff members from Joliet Public School District 86 put on a display of unity as they continue to work without a contract and negotiations continue for a new one.
About 300 union members attended the the district’s Board of Inspectors meeting Wednesday at Edna Keith Elementary School. They were wearing red shirts that read “#TeacherStrong” as a sign of their unity as they continue to work after their previous contract expired.
Therese Skwarczynski, president of the Local 604 branch of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, said the demonstration was meant to show the board that the union membership was “united” as it is asking for better pay, among other items.
“Our plan is to show a united front as a union and ask for them to bargain with us to come to a tentative agreement,” Skwarczynski said.
The District 86 union is made up of almost 800 certified staff members including teachers, social workers, psychologists and more, Skwarczynski said.
Skwarczynski said the union and the district began negotiations in April and have continued even after the previous contract expired Aug. 31. The union members have been working without a contract since then.
Skwarczynski said the two sides still have to come to an agreement on several items including wages and specific language about a range of issues from transferring to sick and personal leave.
She said that although she thinks the union has been bargaining in good faith, the district has made “little movement” on its offer, but she is hopeful the two sides can come to a tentative agreement.
District officials weren’t commenting on the matter as negotiations between the two sides are ongoing.
Sandy Zalewski, a district spokeswoman, said the board was willing to answer questions union members had at the meeting if they were asked. During the public comment section of the meeting, no one spoke.
Skwarczynski said union members will discuss further plans if negotiations continue to stall and teachers and staff continue to work without a contract.
“We just want the other side to bargain fairly and in good faith,” she said.
District 86 covers more than 26 square miles in Joliet and includes more than 11,000 students in 21 schools. The district employs 1,500 people, including 750 teachers.