March 17, 2017

Rockford-area leaders support striking schools employees, call on board to compromise

Students of Auburn High School bring coffee to support striking school employees walking the picket line.

In the midst of a planned three-day strike by some 950 Rockford school bus drivers, paraprofessionals and nutrition services workers, local elected officials and community leaders spoke out in support of employees and called on the school board to change its approach. They joined Rockford parents, teachers, students and members of other unions in showing strong support for striking workers.

"I am disappointed in the failed efforts to negotiate in good faith with our school bus drivers, paraprofessionals, nutrition services workers and their union,” state Rep. Litesa Wallace said. “If we want the best for our children then we need to respect those who work with them every day. If we want to lift up our community then we need to provide living wages and affordable health care for all, and our elected officials need to lead the way. I strongly support schools employees who are fighting for fairness, and I call on the board to take real steps toward compromise at once."

“RPS 205's paraprofessionals, nutrition service workers and bus drivers work hard every day to feed, serve and assist our children,” said mayoral candidate Tom McNamara, third ward alderman of Rockford. “I encourage both sides to return to the negotiating table to find a common solution that benefits the employees, taxpayers and most importantly our children.”

“I am for equal and equitable pay for all people, which in my mind means a livable wage,” Rockford Township Assessor Ken Crowley said. “I urge the RPS205 district and all parties involved to come together for an outcome that is fair to all including the taxpayers.”

“No one deserves poverty wages, especially not those who are serving our children,” 12th ward aldermanic candidate Barb Verni-Lau said. “Providing health insurance that is too expensive to use is the same as not providing health insurance at all. The AFSCME members in our community are also taxpayers, paying into their own wages and benefits each year. Public employee wages and benefits are not a handout. The school board should negotiate in good faith with AFSCME to ensure that this contract is fair for all parties involved and to send a message to AFSCME members and all working people in Rockford that they are a valued part of our community.”

“Our state cannot afford to make the mistakes of the past and put short term goals over long term success and viability,” said William Rose, aldermanic candidate for the 9th ward. “Our working AFSCME families deserve to have dinner at a kitchen table just like any middle class family. It’s hard to have a family dinner, however, when you can’t afford a kitchen table. AFSCME has taken up a noble cause that affects crime, neighborhoods, and keeping local dollars close to home. Godspeed in your efforts to bring fair wages to Illinois families.”

"I stand with any working person who is willing to fight for the very just cause that a day's hard effort should earn a decent hard-earned wage," said Jonathan Logemann, aldermanic candidate for the 2nd ward. "We can't advance our regional economy if we continue to keep our workers in poverty for the very beneficial work they do for our city's children. Rockford works when the middle class works."

“I strongly support the efforts of AFSCME,” said school board candidate Kimberly Haley. “The obligation to duly compensate our paraprofessionals, bus drivers and nutrition workers is one of the items that should take priority in the district's budget years in advance. We need to invest in these individuals who are vital to the function of the district by supporting policies and contracts that encourage the retention of quality people and will in turn attract quality people to the district. Policies should not only address the cost of health care but also takes into account the rising cost of living. Every day we put our children in the hands of others and we want those individuals to be committed to their vocations. We should prioritize the way we treat people and treat one another fairly.”

“As a guest teacher for Rockford Public Schools, I understand and know how important the roles of paraprofessionals, bus drivers, and nutrition service workers are in the daily function of District 205,” said school board candidate Dr. Brandi DeShawn Brown. “I support these workers in their right to fight for an increase in their wages. These workers are struggling. I believe that Rockford Public Schools Superintendent and School Board members can be flexible in their decision making while bargaining for a contract that works for workers. It’s time for Rockford Public School leaders to make Rockford a model city to live in by showing appreciation to these workers for the work they’re doing on a daily basis.”

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