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AFT President Weingarten Rallies Striking Evergreen Park Members

10/04/2012

Spirits were high and union chants could be heard from blocks away on Wednesday as the members of the Evergreen Park Federation of Teachers (EPFT) Council of Local 943 received national attention and a visit from AFT President Randi Weingarten on Day 3 of their strike.

“You are not just walking this line for yourselves, you’re doing it for kids, for education and for all professionals who deserve respect, just as you do,” Weingarten, the nationally-recognized AFT leader, told the cheering crowd of members, the media and supporters on the lines in the southern Cook County suburb.

EPFT members were forced to strike on October 1 after months of negotiations with the District 124 school board failed to produce a fair agreement. The 205 members of the council of the Southwest Suburban Federation of Teachers, Local 943, work in five schools serving more than 1,800 students in one junior high and four elementary buildings.

IFT President Dan Montgomery also spoke to the members assembled at Central Junior High School in Evergreen Park, encouraging them to remain united because their fight is everyone’s fight.  “You are amazing, and what you’re doing here is standing up for all kids and all educators,” he said. “Stay strong. The IFT is proud to be behind you all the way.”

The union has made numerous concessions throughout the negotiations process but has been met with hostility from the school board, despite the district’s financial stability. District 124 currently has a large funding reserve but refuses to reach a compromise on a fair agreement with the union. Issues remaining on the table include salary, health insurance and retirement benefits.

Parents and students have joined their teachers and paraprofessionals on the lines since Day 1 to show their support and to ask the board to work with the teachers and school staff, not against them. Car horns and cheers of support drowned out the words of President Weingarten as she spoke to the assembled media and members on Wednesday.

“There is no reason this board, like Chicago and others in the area, cannot reach a compromise that will benefit kids and professionals in Evergreen Park schools,” insisted the AFT president. “When we stand united for a better future for kids, ourselves and our communities, we prevail.”

The union and board are scheduled to meet again on Wednesday afternoon. “Like” the EPFT on Facebook page for strike updates, photos and more.
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