Teachers in Galesburg, Illinois, voted overwhelmingly in favor of a strike Thursday night.
Hundreds of members of the Galesburg Education Association met behind closed doors at Galesburg High School for nearly four hours on Thursday, July 31, 2014. GEA spokesperson Tami Qualls said the union members voted to send an intent-to-strike notice to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board.
“We felt like the [Board of Education] has not listened; they have not fairly negotiated and represented the taxpayers, our community, our students and our educators in not resolving this contract,” said Qualls.
There is still an opportunity, though, for a strike to be avoided. Both sides are scheduled to begin bargaining again on August 11.
“At 1 p.m. on August 12, if there is not a resolution and a contract to be ratified that we feel is worthy, then we will be striking on August 13th,” said Qualls.
The GEA and Board of Education have been negotiating since April of this year. Teachers are asking for a 1.5 percent pay increase, while the District says it is facing a $2.7 million budget deficit.
“We’re just in a tight spot right now,” said Bart Arthur, superintendent of Galesburg District 205. “Contract negotiations are already difficult in Illinois, especially now because turning levels from the state have been cut so severely, and the federal government is cutting back.”
Arthur says the Board’s most recent offer is fair, while teachers say salaries aren’t the only sticking point.
“The Board constantly continues to say it’s a money issue. It’s not just money,” said Qualls. “There are language issues and protections that cost zero money, and those are things we put in there because they are very important to us.”
Both sides, though, said they still hope to reach an agreement before a strike takes place.
“Nobody likes that. We are all people that wanna be in our classrooms. We feel strongly about what we do, we love what we do, and it’s discouraging to us,” said Qualls.