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Dixon teachers' option to strike ‘set in motion’

Intent paperwork filed; talks would have to reach an ‘impasse’

Published: Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

DIXON —The Dixon Education Association has begun the process to give it the option of going on strike.

Teachers have been working without a contract since Aug. 20, despite talks that began in March. More negotiations are scheduled for Wednesday and Feb. 4.

The union voted Jan. 18 to file an intent to strike, but that does not mean it will. The union would have to follow procedures, taking up to 28 days after the intent was filed, to initiate a strike. And even then, the school’s attorney believes, an impasse must be called before that clock starts. An impasse has not been declared.

“This sets in motion the different guidelines we have to follow, if, and that does not mean we’re going to, take the certain steps to strike,” said Dolph Ricks, a teacher at Reagan Middle School who is the lead negotiator for the Dixon Education Association. “At this point, all parties have been notified of the intent. Hopefully we come to a resolution, but once again, we have to protect our interest as well and move forward down the road.”

It is up to interpretation whether an impasse must be met, but both sides would be required to make a final offer to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board within 7 days if one is met. The school board then would have 7 more days to post the offer in a public forum. Finally, at least 14 days must pass once the final offers are made public before the union can call a strike.

The process could go as short as 16 days and as long as 28 days.

Dixon Education Association President Sandra Sodergren-Baar told the school board last week that the teachers union was frustrated with slow collective bargaining talks.

Teachers took a soft freeze in pay in 2010-2011 and 2011-2012, only to have 20 teaching positions eliminated, Sodergren-Baar said.

“In light of the previous sacrifice, we are now asking to increase our salaries and to maintain our current level of benefits.”

She said she could not comment on the size of pay increases that teachers are seeking until the board makes a counteroffer to a recent proposal by teachers. Ricks said both sides had tentatively agreed on only a few items of the contract, leaving many issues left to bargain.

“With the amount of time that has passed, [filing an intent to strike] was one of those points where we had to make a move forward,” Ricks said.

School board members are just as frustrated by the lack of progress, Superintendent Michael Juenger said, but they are limited in what they can do since the district saw revenue fall by about $700,000 this year.

“Although a long amount of time has passed, we haven’t bargained a lot,” Juenger said on Friday afternoon.

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