Thursday, November 1, 2012

Another Looming Illinois Teachers Strike

Last week, teachers from Geneva School District 304, in Illinois, gave formal notice that they intend to strike, after a 12-hour bargaining session failed to reach an accord, the Chicago Tribune reports. Because state law requires a 14-day waiting period, the earliest the strike could begin would be Friday, November 9.

The main issue is salaries. Teachers say that there is plenty of money in the reserves to not only give them a raise, but to also refund some property tax dollars, as the district did last year. The district, not surprisingly, is crying “fiscal uncertainty” and wants to freeze salaries for the next year, including a freeze on step and experience increases. However, they are willing to give a paltry 1.4% raise in the second year of the contract, still with no step increases.

The union, for their part, is not asking for much. They want a 1% raise in the first year and another 1% raise for the second year. They are even offering a hard salary freeze for the first half of the third year, but want step and lane increases reinstated for in the second half of the third year. They also want a 6% increase in pay for three of the last four years of employment before retirement, so that their pensions will be larger.

Considering that wages have been steadily falling for the past 40 years (when adjusted for inflation), a 2% raise over two years will only contribute to this slide. While the greed of the employing class is the primary reason for the downward spiral in living conditions for the majority of Americans and the growing wealth gap, the unions have been complicit by continually asking for and accepting far too little. When one factors in the skyrocketing cost of health care and the increasing out of pocket payments being squeezed from workers, a 1% annual raise is a de facto pay cut.

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