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Bradley assistant law professor explains teachers' union strike process

Assistant Professor Tyler Smith.jpg
Collin Schopp
Tyler Smith, assistant professor of entrepreneurship, technology and law at Bradley University, explains the next legal steps the Peoria Federation of Teachers would have to take before going on strike.
Corrected: September 12, 2022 at 2:46 PM CDT
This article has been updated from its original format to reflect a correction made by Professor Smith. The 30 day waiting period following a fact finding process is a rule that is specific to Chicago Public Schools. Therefore, the Peoria Federation of Teachers would not be required to complete that process.

Early Thursday morning, the second round of federally-mediated negotiations between the Peoria Federation of Teachers (PFT) and Peoria Public schools ended without a conclusion.

According to PFT president Jeff Adkins-Dutro, no agreement was reached. The federal mediator was called in after 19 unsuccessful rounds of bargaining between March and now.

On Thursday, Sep. 1, the union voted to approve a strike authorization.

That vote is one step in a process outlined by the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act that details the conditions necessary for teachers to go on strike.

Tyler Smith, an assistant professor of entrepreneurship, technology and law at Bradley University, says the union would have to give a 10-day notice to Peoria Public Schools before beginning the strike.

“Getting to this point, I mean, it’s probably somewhat rare to get to this point and have so many sessions and not result in any kind of agreement whatsoever,” said Smith. “It’s not unheard of, right, it does happen.”

Smith cited the Chicago Teachers Union strike from three years ago as an example of a prolonged negotiation process that led to a strike and canceled classes.

“A strike is a pressure tactic, right?” said Smith. “It’s not something that’s done lightly. Typically, the union doesn’t want to do it. So we’ve gotten to the point where things have degraded pretty, pretty far.”

Fortunately, Smith said organizations like the Urban League and Peoria Park District have volunteered to organize programming for children if classes are canceled.

Smith said there are multiple reasons both the union and school administrators would want to avoid a strike.

“When we have a strike for teachers, they don’t go to school. That means they’re not teaching our children,” he said. “The children are the ones that suffer here. So we have to remember that, which is why this isn’t done lightly on the behalf of the union.”

If teachers aren’t teaching and on the picket line, that also means they’re not being paid.

As for the causes of the long negotiation process, Smith didn't want to speculate too much, based on the small amount of information that’s been shared publicly so far.

“I hate to read too much into it,” he said. “Pay is always an issue, especially for teachers. There have been some other things thrown about on social media that I caution us from reading too much into.”

Another round of mediated negotiations is scheduled for Thursday, Sep. 15.

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Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.