Suburban teachers hold bargaining session ahead of potential strike

Students joined the Chicago Teachers Union outside Simeon Career Academy in Chatam Wednesday as a strike looms.

The teachers are calling for smaller class sizes and more support staff. They have voted to go on strike October 17 if no agreement is made. The strike would affect the hundreds of thousands of CPS students and their parents.

Meanwhile, teachers in the south suburbs are threatening to strike as well. The union met with school officials in Country Club Hills to come to an agreement before that happens.

Teachers have been negotiating with District 228 for 10 months and on Wednesday night, they went back to the bargaining table. At issue are salaries that teachers say are unfairly low, and also they want better healthcare.

Teachers and staff in a show of unity were outside Hillcrest High School where the Joint Faculty Association went back to the bargaining table with the District 228 Board of Education. This past Thursday, they voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike vote.

“We're hoping that it doesn't come to a strike. We're hoping that it can just happen behind closed doors and we can walk out of here with a tentative agreement as soon as possible,” said teacher Ryan Blackwell.

Teachers say out of 15 surrounding school districts, their average salaries are lower than all but two.

“We're worried that if we take their offer, that in the future, it's going to be hard to attract and retain quality educators. And we just can't accept that offer,” Blackwell said.

Teachers are asking for a 3.6 percent raise each of the next five years, along with a healthcare plan with lower premiums.

“We need to make sure our families are secure too and paying more in healthcare is not an option for us right now,” Blackwell said.