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Hinsdale District 86 teachers say vote in favor of strike option was unanimous

hinsdale district 86
Teachers outside Hinsdale South High School on June 2 | Kimberly Fornek/Sun-Times Media

Hinsdale High School District 86 teachers overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike as negotiations continue with the district.

Michael Palmquist, spokesman for the Hinsdale High School Teachers Association, which represents 377 teachers from Hinsdale Central and South, said its members were asked to vote on May 29 to authorize the association’s Joint Executive Board to call for a strike during the upcoming school year. Palmquist said 99 percent of its members, or 372 certified employees, all cast ballots and all voted in favor of the strike authorization.

In a statement released June 4, six days after the vote and two days after union officials would not confirm the vote announced publically by the School Board, Palmquist said this action “would occur only if mediation between the School Board and the teachers’ association reaches an impasse.”

“Although it is not our desire, this vote allows the leaders of the HHSTA to call for a strike next fall should mediation fail this summer,” Palmquist said.

“This is an important procedural vote that we felt was best completed before (the) end of the school year,” Jeff Waterman, the chief negotiator for the teachers union, said in a statement. “It’s an honest reflection of the relationship between the new board majority and Hinsdale’s teachers.”

“However, it is our hope mediation will lead to a quick and fair resolution, making this a purely procedural matter,” Waterman said.

District officials and union representatives give conflicting accounts on how long negotiations have been underway.

Palmquist said the teachers’ association requested negotiations begin last September. District officials reportedly postponed the start because head administrators still were being hired.

The negotiating teams met eight times in the period from Jan. 20 to May 2, according to the district’s response to a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

Yet in a statement released June 2, School Board President Richard Skoda said only five bargaining sessions occurred before May 5 when the board and the association agreed to request the assistance of a mediator from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

School Board member Ed Corcoran said some of the early meetings were very short, basically consisting of introductions.

Palmquist said the School Board did not make a complete offer until the first mediation session May 27.

Discussion of contract terms usually occurs in closed session, but both sides are claiming the financial terms they proposed are in line with the Consumer Price Index.

“The board offered on May 27 salary increases and performance pay that reflect the Consumer Price Index,” Skoda said.

“The teachers’ association proposal is in line with CPI and other settled contracts of comparable school districts, including one of the district’s feeders, District 181,” Palmquist wrote.

Officials of the district and the teachers’ association are scheduled to meet with the federal mediator June 10.

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