Education

Quincy Federation busy with strike plans

JenDrewPresser
Quincy Federation spokesman Jen Drew held an informal press conference in her classroom Wednesday at Ellington Elementary School. | H-W Photo/Michael Kipley
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jan. 12, 2017 12:01 am Updated: Jan. 12, 2017 7:47 pm

QUINCY -- Plans developed over the last month by the negotiating team for the Quincy Federation of Teachers and Educational Support Personnel are being implemented now that the union has announced it intends to strike Tuesday if a new contract is not reached with the Quincy School Board.

Setting the strike date may have eliminated some uncertainty surrounding the ongoing contract talks, but it means added work for the union's negotiating team.

INFORMATION FROM QUINCY SCHOOL DISTRICT

The Quincy Federation of Teachers and Educational Support Personnel intends to strike beginning Tuesday, Jan. 17. The Quincy School District provided the following information concerning the potential strike:


Thursday and Friday, Jan. 12 and 13, will be regular school days.


All QPS weekend activities for Jan. 14 and 15, including athletic/sporting events, will take place as scheduled.


Monday, Jan. 16, will remain a no school holiday in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.


The first day of the strike would be Tuesday, Jan. 17. No school activities will take place in any district buildings including school, afterschool activities, extracurricular activities, sports/athletic events, music events or any other school-sponsored or school-related activities or events.


A Skylert message will be sent by telephone Monday to alert parents if union members still intend to walk off the job the following day. Parents also will receive a Skylert message when information related to an end to the strike is available.


More information is available by contacting the Board of Education office at 217-223-8700.

"Now, not only do we worry about negotiating with the board, but we also worry about taking care of 870 employees -- where they show up, who will be strike coordinator, where to make signs, where are we going to park, all those committees to set up," QF spokesman Jen Drew said.

QF announced a strike date after more than eight hours of talks Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning failed to reach agreement on the first-ever contract between the School District and the union covering teachers, paraprofessionals, custodians, food service employees, transportation employees and secretaries.

The two sides came to terms on contract language -- including a "just cause" clause desired by the union and tied to the district's ability to manage, assign and discipline employees -- but still remain too far apart on compensation.

"There's still time," Superintendent Roy Webb said Wednesday. "But it doesn't look good right now."

No meetings between the union and School Board are scheduled.

Preliminary planning began after the union's strike vote on Dec. 14. The union sent out "member engagement cards" to determine interest levels for several committees, and Drew said a meeting was planned Wednesday night with site coordinators.

The sign committee will meet this week, with other committees expected to meet either this week or over the weekend to prepare for the walkout.

Drew said committees will address several issues tied to a strike, including getting lunch to picketers, community relations and establishing a drop-in day care for union members in partnership with a local church.

Unless a new deal is reached, district employees will picket at the locations where they work beginning Tuesday.

At the same time, union representatives are working with the School District and community organizations to provide for students during the strike.

"One of the biggest concerns for parents is what they're going to do with their kids during the day," Drew said.

Information about services available to families such as drop-in day care, breakfast and lunch will go home with students on Friday.

"We really want kids to be at school and learning," Drew said. "We tell them our job is to be a teacher. Your job is to be here and learning. Our goal is get them back into school and learning as soon as possible."

At the same time, though, Drew said the union intends to stand up for its beliefs to help district employees.

"It is important that we are paying a livable wage to all members of our union. This is not just about the teachers and how much they make," she said.

"We have 870 members in our union. Approximately 450 of those are teachers, but it's a large number that isn't teachers. We want our members to not be living in poverty anymore. We have bus drivers and food service workers who need to have two or three extra jobs just to make ends meet. It's not fair for them."