The Examiner U-46 News Feed
Union speaks out about contract talks with U-46
By Seth Hancock
Members of School District U-46’s educational assistants union (DUEA) addressed the Board of Education about current contract negotiations on Monday, June 18.
Sara Moeller, DUEA’s president, was one of four to speak about the contract negotiations during public comments, and she said about 100 DUEA members were upstairs in the overflow room. The last DUEA contract expired in 2017.
“We’ve come here this evening to inform the community, parents and the board of how the district’s proposals will affect DUEA,” Moeller said, and she added: “We demand respect and value for what we do.”
DUEA, which represents primarily paraeducators while also representing sing language interpreters (SLI) and home school liaisons, members appear to be the highest paid in the area with the largest pay increases based on The Examiner’s independent review of union contracts from area school districts. Moeller said DUEA is asking for an 80 cents per hour increase to hourly pay, up from the 55 cents an hour increase in Fiscal Year 2016 and a 2.75 percent increase in FY 2017.
On July 2, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request was submitted asking for a wage comparison between U-46 educational assistants and those from area districts, but U-46 denied the request on July 10 claiming that “information does not exist in a matter that is subject to FOIA.”
Mary Fergus, director of school and community relations, confirmed on June 28 that such a comparison does exist when The Examiner requested it in a June 25 email. She replied that the “wage comparison was provided to our Board of Education” along with a link that did not work, and after being informed that the link was not accessible she requested a FOIA request be submitted.
Under the current agreement, DUEA members receive a starting hourly wage between $13.61 and $23.03 depending on position, a master SLI representing the top wage.
In the review of area districts it showed similar employees at District 300 (Carpentersville) starting from $9.56 to $15.95 an hour, District 101 (Batavia) from $11.50 to $12, District 301 (Burlington) at $11.81, District 304 (Geneva) from $11.83 to $13.26, District 302 (Kaneland) from $10.52 to $12.13 and District 303 (St. Charles) from $12.51 to $13.83. All pay increases were under 40 cents.
Asked how most DUEA employees are classified, full-time or part-time, Fergus said “most are six-hour employees, some seven.”
The current agreement states elementary school employees work six hours a day, middle school six and a half hours and high school seven hours. Most “work only on regularly scheduled school days when students are in attendance” making their work year 173 days under the current instructional calendar.
Regarding benefits, new DUEA members under contract have access to health and dental as well as life insurance, among other benefits, if “regularly scheduled school days when students are in attendance.” Existing DUEA members were grandfathered in having to “work at least 20 hours per week” to have access to the benefits.
Currently the “contribution for employees” with DUEA for their health insurance across all categories, single and family, “will be 10 [percent] of the rate.”
Moeller said the median income of DUEA members is $18,407 and the district is asking to cap salaries at $22,080 under the current negotiations. She said the 80 cents an hour increase being asked for by the union is necessary because of “skyrocketing” health care costs.
“Even though we don’t have a degree, we are doing much more than you guys think,” said Norma Bandel, and Lynn Sotomayor calling herself a “surrogate mom or grandma to some of these children.”
Moeller said DUEA members are below the poverty line and on taxpayer funded welfare programs and “40 percent are the primary income earners of their household, 31 are the sole income earners of their household, 92 percent are women, 40 percent are minority.”
U-46 is, according to Moeller, “literally nickeling and diming us. We know that the district has money to meet our request without raising taxes.”
The district plans to increase spending by $16.7 million according to its current tentative budget.