More than 900 Rockford Public School employees announce they’re ready to strike.
The three day walkout is planned for later this month, if no contract deal is reached.
“Our union sent a letter to board members providing our notice of intent to strike,” said AFSCME Council 31 representative Ed Sadlowski, speaking to a crowd of paraprofessionals, bus drivers, and nutritional services employees.
The announcement to strike is coming months after the school board refused to negotiate on a new contract.
“It’s disheartening, it’s disrespectful, and worst of all, it really puts children in harm’s way,” said Sadlowski. “[It shows] total disregard for the welfare of Rockford school children.”
Ashley Smith is a bus driver and a single mother. She says the current deal is not good enough for her to support her child.
“At 500 to 600 dollars every two weeks, my income is not enough to make ends meet when we only work at least 1,000 hours a year compared to an 80 hour person,” said Ashley Smith, Bus Driver and President of AFSCME Local 1275.
She, like hundreds of other union workers, are demanding better wages and more affordable health insurance.
“We don’t want to strike,” said Smith. “But if this is what we have to do, this is what we’re going to do.”
“We all want to be able to take care of our families just like everybody else,” said Madeleine Sherod, Cafeteria Manager and President for AFSCME Local 3210. “And believe me, we’re deserving. We are very deserving.”
Workers plan to go on strike for three days.
They’re hoping it will convince the school board to come back to the bargaining table.
“We are somebody. We are somebody special,” said Sherod. “Because every day we feed the kids at District 205, and we love them. We love our jobs. And we really want a contract.”
The first day workers could strike is Wednesday March 15th.
The school district says schools will remain open.
However, students who take the bus will have to find their own means of transportation until the strike ends.