Unit 5 has three weeks to form an appeal before the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board. (WJBC file photo)
By Zach Dietmeier
NORMAL - The fight over Unit 5's bus driver and monitor contracts has reached a decision - for now.
Unit 5 did not bargain in good faith with its bus drivers and monitors union, according to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board. A decision by the IELRB came down Wednesday, and AFSCME representatives at the Unit 5 board meeting, including spokeswoman Renee Nestler, were very happy.
"Certainly, it complicates an already complicated situation," Nestler said. "We're very pleased with the decision, and now we want to cut to the chase and get a contract agreement with the district."
Unit 5 Superintendent Gary Niehaus was not so quick to reach the same solution.
"We're running probably the best we've ever run in transportation right now," Niehaus said. "Things are going well, and we're happy with our contracts. We think we made the right decision."
The drivers and monitors unionized in 2011 but Unit 5 chose First Student School Bus Company as its transportation company instead. Unit 5 has been ordered to rescind its contract with First Student and has 21 days to appeal to the Labor Board and in the Fourth Appellate Court.
Around 30 members of Council 31 cheered on Nestler as she slammed the school board over its busing choices.
"Your actions have been retaliatory and a violation of our rights under the law," Nestler told the board. "You've shown significant disregard during our attempts at agreement. Work directly with the union and stop denying worker's rights."
A decision wasn't anticipated for several weeks. Nestler said AFSCME is pleased with the turn around time considering how many other cases were before the Labor Board. Niehaus said he really wasn't surprised.
"I don't think anyone is expecting this to be a quick decision," Niehaus said. "We would like for it to be a decision that could come up with a verdict that will be fair to everyone."
19 drivers and monitors were taken off benefits with the start of the new year because they chose not to go with First Student. Both sides are continuing to sift through the decision and more details about a potential appeal date are yet to be decided.
Zach Dietmeier can be reached at email@example.com.