Bourbonnais union strikes; claims to fight for students ‘out on the picket line’

Bourbonnais union strikes; claims to fight for students ‘out on the picket line’

A disagreement over final contract details caused the teachers union to strike in Bourbonnais, putting 2,452 elementary students out of class.

Bourbonnais School District 53 teachers went on strike March 4, idling 2,452 students at five schools in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

The strike came after district leaders said they made progress with a federal mediator March 3 and made an offer with raises totaling 9.5% over three years to try to avoid a strike. The offer was in reaction to the union’s demand for 11.25% over three years.

“We would much rather be in our classrooms with our students, but instead we are fighting for them out on the picket line,” Lauren Lundmark, Bourbonnais Education Association president, told the Chicago Tribune.

There are 167 teachers, speech pathologists, psychologists and social workers in the union. The union and district started negotiating in April, and the latest contract expired at the start of the school year in August. Lundmark said the district has about $10 million in reserves that could be used to pay teachers.

“We know they have the funding to maintain our insurance and retirement benefits while also providing competitive percentage raises to our staff across the board,” she said.

The board issued a statement that the union demands were more than other local districts were able to reach, and those agreements came before the COVID-19 economic downturn impacted school finances.

“The Board has attempted to meet every demand of the BEA with the sole exception of agreeing to unsustainable pay increases that would negatively harm the District in the future. The Board is the steward of taxpayer funds and cannot violate its oath by ignoring the future consequences of these decisions,” the statement read.

Teachers who disagree with the union about whether students are better served on the picket line than in the classroom have an option. If they resign from the union, they are free to return to class and the union no longer has authority to punish them.

Teachers interested in opting out of the union can request assistance and the appropriate paperwork at

Teachers can opt out of the union and retain all the benefits provided in the union contract. Those benefits include, but are not limited to, salary, raises, health care plans and seniority. In other words, if a benefit is in the contract, it is guaranteed to teachers regardless of union membership.

Anyone who opts out now will be considered a nonmember immediately. Dues deductions may continue until a designated opt-out window set by the union.

Teachers are free to join other associations, many of which provide liability insurance and job protection coverage at a fraction of the cost of union membership. One example is the Association of American Educators, which is not only the largest non-union educators’ organization in the nation, but also provides liability insurance and job protection coverage to teachers.

Teachers always have the option to rejoin the union. Most unions allow people to become members at any time, although some unions impose time restrictions on when a new member can participate in some union activities, such as being a delegate or local representative. But typically, unions are more than happy to have people rejoin and pay dues again.

Bourbonnais teachers have kept students safely in class through much of the pandemic. For the union to keep kids out of school now over a money disagreement seems like the wrong example to set for them.

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