Metro-East News

East St. Louis teachers on picket lines for fourth workday; No progress reported

Neither officials from District 189 nor officials from Union Local 1220 signaled each other that either of them are ready to get back to the negotiating table. But, both sides say they are ready whenever the other side is ready to meet.

So, for the fourth workday, teachers were on the picket lines at various schools in the district and in front of the district headquarters office on 10th and State streets.

Their voices were loud. Their feet were pounding the pavement as they walked up and down the street. Many motorists honked and waved as they drove by. The picketers waved back.

District 189 schools are closed again Wednesday. But the district plans to provide “nutritious meals” to the students in the district. Late Tuesday afternoon, district officials said they will continue to provide meals at all schools. They will use the late bus schedule.

District spokesperson Kelli Hawkins said, “We are providing lunch to approximately 200 students at area community centers in addition to the meals being provided by the community centers.”

Continuing to call for District 189 Superintendent Arthur Culver to give them what they want, the picketing teachers hoisted their signs and chanted for a contract. They have not had a contract in nearly four years. They want district officials to give them “a fair and equitable contract.”

One sign said “Educators matter.” Another said “Don’t be greedy. Share the wealth.” Another one said “Respect for teachers. We deserve a fair contract.”

Antonio Wilbert Jr., 16, wore a sign that said “To the world you may be just a teacher, but to us you are a hero.”

He said he and other students are supporting their teachers “because they are valuable to us.”

Cris Yates said, “Every child is shaped by the mind of a teacher.”

District officials say they are ready to meet again as soon as the union says they want to meet. And the union Local 1220 officials said they are ready and available to meet when district officials want to meet. But, no date or time has been scheduled for a new meeting.

Meanwhile, the city has decided to host the East St. Louis Senior High School homecoming dance from 7 to 10 p.m. tonight at City Hall, according to City Manager Alvin Parks Jr.

On the strike front, Culver has repeatedly said that he did everything he could to avoid the strike. Culver said he put the best deal he could on the table and there is nothing else the district can offer. He refuses, he said, to recommend an 11-step schedule that union leaders want and a 3 percent raise in the next three years that the union put on the table during the meeting Monday afternoon.

After that meeting, he said he will not be bullied or intimidated into recommending a contract that he knows the district can not sustain. Union officials said the contract they are asking is not long term and they know the district has the money to sustain it. They claim that the documents they have seen show that. And, they say that some documents they have requested they have not gotten. Culver said anything the union has asked the district to provide, has been given to them. He said if the union wants them to provide something else, all they have to do is ask and the district “will be happy to get it to them.”

Culver said when talks started between the two parties they were miles apart. But the tentative agreement that he said Union Local 1220 officials signed and he presumed they would be recommending to their members to ratify is the best and final offer.

Sharon Crockett, president of Union Local 1220 has said she took the tentative agreement to the body and union members overwhelmingly voted it down. Culver said he is saddened that the students, who desperately need to be in school are unable to be there because there are no teachers in the classrooms.