Deerfield residents who responded to Patch’s unscientific poll were overwhelmingly clear: teachers should declare an impasse so that the public can evaluate the demands of Deerfield School District 109 and the Deerfield Education Assn., which bargains for the teachers' union.
Bargaining has been going on in earnest since August, when the contract expired. A federal mediator was called in this past fall. And then in February, after hours of mostly unfruitful negotiations, teachers voted to allow its leaders to call a strike if negotiations fail.
Negotiations take place behind closed doors and the only thing Deerfield residents know is what the union and the District choose to disclose unless an impasse is declared by one side or the other, according to Union President Dennis Jensen.
And 89 of the 119 people - or 74 percent, said yes the time to exercise that option is now. Thirty -or 25 - percent said no.
Fifty-six separate comments were posted, with some of them being running commentary between readers. A number spoke for and against the union.
One reader, Linda Fine, wondered about the advantage of being unionized, when teachers are already so well paid. "My goodness. Aren't they tired of paying union dues. What exactly does a teacher get in return for those dues? I'd love to see an article written by a teacher about the benefits of being unionized."
RK listed some of the union benefits: "Protects teachers from administors who seek to apply rules, directives etc...in an unfair, uneven or inconsistent manner;
provides a voice to young teachers through the officers....Negotiates the working conditions, pay scale, benefits for ALL members based on education and experience." Experience is rewarded. "I assume most people would rather have their childrens' teachers concentrating on teaching the curriculum and not on negotiating her own contract or divising dog and pony shows for merit pay. Yes, some districts are nonunion, but they are few and far between," the writer said.
Jodi Shapira believes that the time for everyone showing their cards is long overdue. "I am a working parent who does NOT want the teachers to strike but after reading an numerous articles on our human resource director i now see why they need a union and why this process has been so painfully long and still unresolved," she said.
James Longman said this was all about money. Showing the cards, he said, won't do anything but show the cards. It won't settle a thing, he said.
"The Union is doing the busting here, requesting unprecedented raises in a time of great economic uncertainty. Saying that we have great teachers DOES NOT MEAN that they should get compensated HOWEVER THEY WISH. We have great teachers - they just have to understand the realities of life in 2012. This proposal looks like it's from 1975."
Nineteen percent over 3 years is 6-percent annually. That was not an outrageous starting point, said John Russillo. "The board was offering no raise," he said. "Why would a union agree to give away what they already have in terms of pension and healthcare? Stop acting like the big bad economy has crushed Deerfield mercilessly. Based on the public budgets, it certainly has not. And I will absolutely have fun on the picket line. Wave to me as you drive by."