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March 15, 2017

Rockford school employees went on strike


As a result of the Rockford school board’s refusal to negotiate in good faith—and instead unilaterally impose terms that double employee health care costs, effectively cutting workers’ already low pay—school bus drivers, nutrition service workers and paraprofessionals began a three-day strike on March 15 and ended March 17.

The school employees walked the picket line at public schools across the city for three days to send a clear and strong message to the school board that it must do its job and negotiate in good faith as the law requires.

Already paying only poverty wages, the board is now imposing nearly 100% higher costs for health care that would reduce workers’ take-home pay even further and could make health coverage completely unaffordable—despite having a $105 million cash surplus.

“We’re on strike because the board isn’t showing any good faith in negotiating,” said Donna Claeyssen, a nutrition services worker and member of AFSCME Local 3210. “They just implemented changes that have almost tripled our insurance cost. We work hard; we feed the kids and take care of them. Management should come back to the table and negotiate to make it fair.”

The night before the strike, schools employees—members of AFSCME Locals 692, 1275 and 3210—were joined by Rockford teachers, other unions and their allies at a rally outside the school board meeting.

“If this school board cared about kids, they would respect and bargain with the people who transport, feed and educate them!” AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch told the crowd. “You are not walking out—you’re standing up for fair wages and affordable health care!”

More than 900 paraprofessionals, nutrition service workers and bus drivers impacted by the board’s terms educate, feed and transport some 27,000 Rockford children daily, 18,000 of who ride the bus.

Contact the Board

This fight is not over yet. Urge the Rockford school board to bargain fairly and in good faith. If you live in Rockford, take action at AFSCME31.org/FairRPS.