Proviso Mathematics and Science Academy in Forest Park. File photo

Members of the Proviso Teachers Union (PTU) voted on Monday to authorize a strike if they don’t get a new contract soon. The PTU’s previous contract expired in June 2021.

According to a statement the union released on Monday evening, 98% of the nearly 300 PTU members voted to authorize a strike. The PTU represents D209 teachers, social workers and school counselors.

Union members had announced last week that they were entering into the vote after talks between their negotiating representatives and District 209 negotiators, primarily D209 Superintendent James Henderson, had collapsed after several months of stalemate.

In a statement released on Jan. 20, union representatives said that they were left with no other choice, because the district’s negotiating team — which has included Henderson, a district attorney and another administrator, but no school board member, according to reports — has not bargained in good faith.

In a statement released Jan. 19, D209 board President Rodney Alexander said the district would not accept the union’s request for a nearly 30 percent salary increase, which he said would not be “fiscally responsible or sustainable.”

The board president added that teachers are also proposing to increase payments for “teacher-run extra-curricular activities” and freeze “teacher compensation for athletic coaching.”

Last week, PTU President Maggie Riley said that teachers are actually proposing a 5-year contract that includes a 5.7 percent pay raise for each year of the contract. She said the district is proposing a 2-year contract with no pay increase the first year and a 5% increase in the second year.

The contract negotiations had been facilitated by a federal mediator since July 2021 in order to help both sides reach an agreement.

In their statement on Jan. 31, union representatives said that they will file an intent-to-strike notice with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (IELRB) on Feb. 1.

“The district’s teachers, librarians, social workers, and school counselors could then strike as soon as Feb. 18,” the union representatives said.

“High educator turnover limits the formation of lasting relationships with students and parents that improve learning and build a strong school community,” Riley said.

“To create the supportive, consistent learning environment students deserve, we need a competitive agreement that attracts great educators – and keeps them here,” she added. “The district’s current offer falls far short of accomplishing that.”

The union is also asking the district administration to reduce class sizes at all three high schools in the district, among other changes.

The next bargaining session is set for Feb. 9. A D209 school board meeting is scheduled for Feb. 8. District 209 officials could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.