Just days after the stunning revelation that Hinsdale Central and South teachers had voted to authorize a strike before their current contract expires at the end of the month, the teachers' union has come forward with the results of what some district officials are calling a “secret vote” taken in bad faith.
In a prepared statement released on Wednesday, the Hinsdale High School Teachers Association said that of the 99-percent of members who cast ballots, one-hundred percent voted to authorize union leaders to call for a work stoppage during the 2014-15 school year should mediation reach an impasse.
The teachers' association represents the 377 teachers at Hinsdale Central and South high schools, and acts as the teachers' exclusive bargaining agent.
Both sides began working with a mediator after contract negotiations stalled. The teachers’ vote was taken on May 29, the same day graduation exercises were held for Hinsdale Central.
“Since September of 2013, we have been trying in good faith to reach a settlement,” teachers’ association spokesman Michael Palmquist said. “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.”
The teachers’ chief negotiator, Jeff Waterman, an economics teacher at Hinsdale South, hinted at the union’s growing prickly relationship with the new board majority seated after last year’s local elections.
“This is an important procedural vote that we felt was best completed before the end of the school year,” Waterman said. "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.”
Before the school board meeting on Monday, teachers staged a "community awareness" rally outside of Hinsdale South High School in Darien.
Teachers, wearing blue "HHSTA" shirts, handed out flyers detailing a list of new board majority actions, including “unorthodox staffing decisions, late hiring practices, and questionable fiscal policy.”
"We feel these actions demonstrate that the new board majority is more interested promoting their political ideology than building upon our tradition of excellence," former teachers' association president Kathy Saylor said in literature distributed by fellow union members.
It was not clear if the teachers rally was pre-planned or in reaction to an earlier statement made by the school district after the teachers' strike authorization vote became public knowledge.
Dist. 86 board president, Richard Skoda, had characterized the vote as "premature" and compared it to a tactic "reminiscent of Karen Lewis and the Chicago Teachers Union," referencing the 2012 Chicago public school teachers' strike.
Skoda said after Monday's meeting that teachers' contracts had often expired before serious contract negotiations got underway. On some occasions, teachers even started off the new school year without a contract.
“We got good teachers and good kids. We pay our teachers well and will continue to pay them well,” he said. “A lot of this is posturing. We will work this out. In my opinion, there won’t be a strike. Deep down the teachers don’t want a strike.”
Read the HHSTA's community awareness rally flyer.