CRYSTAL LAKE – Community High School District 155 teachers have taken preliminary steps to go on strike, pending a binding arbitration offer to the board of education.
Justin Hubly, president of the District 155 Education Association, said that for the first time in its nearly 40-year history, the organization held a strike authorization vote Sunday. A nearly unanimous vote for a strike was recorded with 99.4 percent of the 440 members in favor.
“We are terribly disappointed that we were forced to take this vote,” Hubly said in a statement. “I never thought that we would see a strike authorization vote in District 155, but the overwhelming support of the membership shows how unfairly we are being treated by the Board of Education.”
The vote allows the union to call a strike if necessary once the requirements of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act are met.
A strike still could be avoided if the board accepts a binding arbitration agreement offered by the union. A binding arbitration would authorize a third party to make a ruling that both the union and the board would agree to honor in advance.
Board President Ted Wagner said the board would meet to discuss the arbitration option, but no meeting or discussions have taken place at this point. A decision is not likely within the coming days as Wagner prepares to leave for a business trip Friday.
“The board’s goal is to maintain long-term fiscal stability that allows us to keep in place the high level of educational programming our community deserves,” Wagner said. “Our teachers are a large part of what makes this community great and what helps District 155 produce the caliber of student that we have.”
Wagner said a special board meeting could be called Nov. 14 to discuss the offer, but said the date is not official.
While the union waits to hear the board’s response to the arbitration offer, Hubly said the education association is preparing to submit its impasse offer to the Illinois Educational Relations Board. The impasse offer, which is the last offer the union would have made to the board in negotiations, will be available for public viewing if the arbitration is rejected.
District 155 teachers have been working without a contract since July 1. Union leadership and district officials engaged in contract negotiations with the help of a federal mediator, but as the school year continued with no contract in place, teachers mounted more public calls for support.
Hundreds of teachers attended the two most recent board meetings and picketed outside Cary-Grove High School with signs calling for a fair contract before a meeting. They also launched a website – www.d155teachers.org – that shows financial information in support of their stance.
Hubly said another informational picket would be held before the board meeting from 6 to 7:15 p.m. Nov. 19 at the administrative building at 1 S. Virginia Road in Crystal Lake.
“We sincerely hope this is the last picket line we will walk,” he said.