Support staff on strike at Palatine school district

PALATINE, Ill. -- For the first time, support staff at a Palatine school district are on strike.

More than 450 union members which include nurses, secretaries and clerical work at Community Consolidate School District 15 said the district left them no choice.

The union members have finished up on the picket line for Monday but they’ll be back Tuesday.

With each step on the picket line, members of the Educational Support Personnel Association, or ESPA, hope they are step closer to a contract.

“We love the kids we love what we do we are anxious to get back to work for a fair contract,” Jennifer Elkins, classroom aid, said.

Union leaders and the Palatine school district negotiated for 12 hours before the union gave them their final offer.

“We had a counter offer ready and they decided to walk to out,” Scott Thompson, palatine superintendent, said.

The main sticking points include a retirement benefit the union wants to maintain after it expired in their last contract along with what the union said is a modest pay increase.

“I think 2.5 percent for a group that largely starts off making 11 dollars an hour is a humble request,” Elkins said.

The district said the retirement benefit isn’t in the best interest of tax payers. They also believe they are within a percentage point of what the union is asking for money wise.  So the district wonders why the union decided to strike.

“I think this is more of a political statement than a negotiations problem

So far, the strike hasn’t been a problem for the parents of the 12,000 Palatine students. The district is keeping schools open and moving non-union staff members to help fill the gaps left behind by striking secretaries, nurses classroom aides and other support staff. They said if parents choose to keep their children at home, it will be counted as an excused absence.

“We are going to do the best we can put our best foot forward and monitor and evaluate and take it from there,” Matt Barbini, assistant superintendent, said.

Parents are just hoping both sides can find a way to comprise and get a contract signed quickly.

Read the full statement from the school district.