Union and district reach tentative agreement

By Anthony Antoine | aantoine@wcia.com

Published 10/07 2013 07:44PM

Updated 10/08 2013 05:31PM

Latest: 4:58 pm, 10/8/13, Tuesday
CHAMPAIGN -- Teachers and school leaders agree on a tentative agreement after months of negotiations. It's great news for parents who now don't have to worry about a strike.

The clock struck midnight and both sides kept working. They met Monday night for more than eight hours at the Mellon building. About 12:30 Tuesday morning, both sides walked out with a new contract proposal.

Neither side would say what they agreed on. Some of the major issues include teaching time, administrative leave and salaries. Now the union will vote on the agreement followed by the school board. No word when that will happen, but teachers are glad it's over.

Both sides had been using a mediator, but he was not there Monday night because of the federal shutdown. There was a pay raise in the contract offer from both sides, so a pay bump is likely. No word how much. It will be retroactive to the start of the school year.
Latest: 1:08 am, 10/8/13, Tuesday
CHAMPAIGN -- After more than eight hours of negotiations, the teachers union and school district reached a tentative agreement on a contract. Champaign Federation of Teachers President Cathy Mannen walked out of the Mellon Building around 12:45 am Tuesday to a crowd of around 30 teachers eagerly awaiting the news.

Mannen wouldn't give any details on the contract other than to say it's now up for a ratification vote. She did not say when the vote would be scheduled.

School board members exited the session around midnight and didn't give any comment. Board President Laurie Bonnett exited about 20-minutes later and said the board and administration were pleased with the discussions.

The bargaining session started Monday at 4:00 pm. It didn't include a federal mediator due to the government shutdown.

During the contract talks, around 100 people, including teachers and family members, set up a camp site outside the building. Negotiations were scheduled to end at 11:00 pm. By that time, the number of teachers waiting to hear any news shrunk to around 40. Many were nervous that the chance of strike would only grow if an agreement wasn't reached by the end of the session.

The two sides have been negotiating since May 15. Teachers have been working without a contract since the beginning of the school year.

September 18, 97% of the teachers union voted in favor of a strike authorization. It was scheduled to start October 18 if an agreement had not been reached.
Update: 10:08 pm, 10/7/13, Monday
CHAMPAIGN -- Dozens of teachers set up camp outside the Mellon Administrative Building Monday evening as another lengthy bargaining session stretched over five hours. With no deal, some worry the chance of a strike is getting higher.

The union and district started another round of contract talks around 4 pm on Monday. Meanwhile, Unit 4 teachers and their families set up camp. They also hosted a "Trunk-or-Treat" event to create a fun environment.

But once it got dark, the campsite shrunk to about 40-teachers and their supporters. Although there was an upbeat vibe, many are still worried.

7th-grade teacher Greg Kneller said they are nervous. "We want to settle this thing. There's not a person here, there's not a person in our school, who wants to see a strike happen. It's just not good for anybody. It's not good for our community. Of course, we have some really strong beliefs about what needs to happen."

The big hang-ups include teaching time, administrative leave and salaries. The union wants a one-year deal with a raise of 3.65%. The district's last proposal was a three-year deal, with a raise of 1.3% each year.

If an agreement is not reached, another session will be scheduled before teachers strike, which is scheduled for October 18.
Original: 7:44 pm, 10/7/13, Monday
CHAMPAIGN -- Teachers are making their presence felt in a way unlike ever before. They're camping outside the building where the teachers union and Unit 4 School District are trying to strike a deal on a contract. It's the first time they've ever done something like that.

Negotiations started at 4:00 pm and could go as late as 11:00 pm. Some families camping out planned to stay outside all seven hours if necessary. Many were grading papers, others were spending time with their kids at a “Trunk-or-Treat” event set up in the parking lot.

The union and district have been struggling to agree on salaries, teacher evaluations and teaching time. Teachers are asking for a one-year contract with a 3.65% salary increase. The district is offering a three-year contract with a 1.3% increase each year.  

One difference in Monday night’s negotiations is that a federal mediator wasn’t present because of the government shutdown. One teacher who’s been a part of the negotiating process before said it’s a stressful time, with our without a mediator.

"That's what we want is to still come together and meet even if we don't have a federal mediator,” said Heidi Bjerke, instructional technology coach in Unit 4. “We all want to work. We want a contract. We certainly don't want to go into a strike or anything like that. We want an agreement."

If both sides don’t reach an agreement, teachers plan to strike on October 18. The union must first file a 10-day strike notice.

Copyright 2015 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Featured Coupon