Crosby-Ironton School District teachers have taken the first step toward a possible strike by voting to give their negotiations committee the authorization to strike.
The vote, taken Oct. 12, passed with a 95 percent majority of the union's 87 members.
Crosby-Ironton teachers, who are members of Education Minnesota Union No. 1325, have been working without a contract since May 2003 when their previous contract expired, according to a news release union members sent.
Students walked in the hallway after school Tuesday afternoon at Crosby-Ironton High School. A vote by C-I teachers authorized their negotiating committee to strike if a contract agreement cannot be reached. Brainerd Dispatch/Nels Norquist
A strike authorization vote is the first step in the process. The vote gives the teachers' negotiators the authority to file an intent to strike. If they do file an intent to strike, a 10-day "cooling off" period would follow, during which negotiations would continue. Once the 10-day period expires, a 15-day window would open that allows teachers to strike legally at any time during those 15 days.
Crosby-Ironton Superintendent Linda Lawrie hadn't heard of the strike authorization vote until the Dispatch notified her Tuesday.
"I'm very surprised," said Lawrie. "It's never been mentioned. The district has been negotiating in good faith and we're surprised to hear from the media that the teachers have taken a strike vote."
Union President Stan Nagorski said teachers hope the negotiations continue and that a settlement can be reached. Nagorski said the district and the union have been trying to reach a settlement through mediation, but there has been little progress. He said the district wants to seek arbitration, where an arbitrator would hear both sides and make a decision in the matter, but he said the union did that a few years ago and got "severely burned."
"Our staff has become very disgruntled with the lack of progress," said Nagorski. "Hopefully we can make some progress and move ahead toward a settlement but that hasn't happened in almost two years."
Both Lawrie and Nagorski said the two major sticking points toward reaching a settlement have been salary increases and retiree health insurance benefits. The two parties have planned to meet in smaller group negotiation sessions.
JODIE TWEED can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858.
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