Palatine school staff return to work without a contract after 2 weeks on strike

PALATINE — Striking support staff will be back on the job Monday after the Palatine School Board gave the union members an ultimatum of returning to work or being replaced.

Members of the Education Support Personnel Association union, which includes most nurses, sign language interpreters, classroom aides and secretaries, have been on strike for 10 days during ongoing contract negotiations. About 450 workers are members of the union in Palatine Township District 15, and have been without a contract since July 1st.

Among the main sticking points in the negotiations are annual pay raises and the restoration of an expired retirement benefit, among other issues. The ESPA rejected what district officials called their “last best offer” Saturday evening. Materials outlining that “last” offer also say the school board will “begin the replacement process” for any workers who “fail to return to work” on Monday, Oct. 30.

In response, the union accused the district of walking away from the negotiation table, but says workers will be back on the job Monday, even without a contract. Union representatives said they plan on filing unfair labor practice charges against the board as well.

“It’s deceptive, untruthful, regressive and quite frankly, it’s illegal to give ESPA an ultimatum and threaten members’ jobs because the District 15 board is not bargaining with us in good faith,” ESPA President Angie Drazkowski said in a statement.

Community Consolidated School District Superintendent Dr. Scott Thompson welcomed the staff back to the schools, and said the Board still “plans to continue negotiating in good faith with ESPA with the hope that an agreement can be reached.”