Union and admin comment on negotiations


On negotiation days, teachers wear shirts with this logo. Picture taken by Charlie Newman

Currently, the district’s teachers union negotiations committee is working on a new contract with the D128 negotiations committee. Although the exact details of the current negotiations are confidential at this point, the union agreed to a one-year extension of its last contract when an agreement couldn’t be reached last year.

On negotiation days, union teachers have been wearing red shirts that say “I Stand with Teachers.” These shirts reflect the “Red for Ed” national movement, which shows solidarity and support for teachers.

“It’s supposed to represent the fact that we are professionals here. We’re all highly educated, and we’re trying to foster respect for what we do—and also to be a sign of solidarity,” VHHS Building Representative Mr. Erickson said.

The union serves to promote that solidarity amongst teachers. At VHHS, more than 95 percent of teachers are in the union, according to Erickson. Teachers are not required to join, but the union represents and defends all teachers.

“The teachers union is there to defend the contract and to help the teachers understand what their responsibilities are within the contract,” Erickson said.

Additionally, the teachers union sponsors community service activities such as the final exam study night at the local library, a scholarship for students and book drives with Bernie’s Book Bank.

In the lead-up to negotiations, the board forms a negotiations committee. This committee works with administration and the entire board to identify issues and positions, and then works with the union team. The board works to represent the community citizens, students, teachers and administrators, according to Superintendent Dr. Lea.

Some students may wonder how their voice is being heard. Due to the confidential nature of the contracts and negotiations, students cannot be directly involved.

However, students’ interests are represented indirectly through the teachers, board team and administration. Students’ opinions and feedback were taken into consideration with discussions during lunch periods, and after weighing the positives and negatives, the union and board agreed to the later start time schedule.

Outside of the district, the union tries to get their voices heard on the national, state and local level. The District 128 union falls under the American Federation of Teachers, Illinois Federation of Teachers and Lake County Federation of Teachers.

“We’re organized on different levels to try to lobby and try to affect public policy decisions as well,” Erickson said. “At the state level, for example, we have a presence to try to encourage lawmakers to pass laws that we think what’s going to be in the best interest for students and teachers. And we also do that on the national level.”

Naturally, during negotiations, disagreements arise. However, at District 128, both the union and board team work hard to reach agreements that benefit both sides.

“We have a long history in this district of working well together, working very collaboratively together. And I think it’s something that, long-term, this district should be proud of—both the union and the board members,” Lea said. “And that’s one of the reasons that we’re generally able to end up in a pretty good position for both sides and for the greater good when negotiations are done.”