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Local

Sycamore teachers, District 427 consider new bargaining approach for future contracts

Sycamore School District 427 Superintendent Kathy Countryman (left) and Randy Larson, a commissioner for Rockford-based Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, change PowerPoint presentations during the dostrict board meeting Tuesday at the Opportunity House, 357 N. California St.
Sycamore School District 427 Superintendent Kathy Countryman (left) and Randy Larson, a commissioner for Rockford-based Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, change PowerPoint presentations during the dostrict board meeting Tuesday at the Opportunity House, 357 N. California St.

SYCAMORE – Sycamore School District 427 officials and Sycamore Education Association union members will keep considering different contract negotiation tactics after a presentation on affinity economic bargaining during the school board meeting Tuesday at Opportunity House, 357 N. California St.

Both parties scheduled a training session for Monday with Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service on the different negotiation technique.

Randy Larson, Rockford-based commissioner for FMCS, said there needs to be a mature relationship between the two negotiating parties for interest-based bargaining to work. He said it’s not for groups that recently have been at war with each other.

“It’s for groups that have that trust factor,” Larson said.

Larson said it takes multiple negotiation sessions to understand what issues are most important to each side in traditional bargaining, where each side takes strong positions initially and strategically make gradual adjustments to those positions as negotiations continue. He said that’s not the case with interest-based bargaining, where both parties start with their interests and work together to develop options in less time.

Larson said the point where interest-based bargaining can fail is on the issue of economics – such as wages, paid leave and benefits.

Tom Jeffery, Chicago-based commissioner for FMCS, said affinity economic bargaining is meant to take the economics issue and turn it into a collaborative brainstorming session between the employer and union. He said the employer proposes what they think the union will like and the union proposes what they think the employer will like; from there, he said, both parties create a tentative agreement in a matter of hours instead of during several sessions.

Jennifer McCormick, a fourth-grade teacher at West Elementary School and president of the union, said both parties have used a modified interest-based bargaining tactic in the past. She said she thinks both parties always have had a good relationship necessary for the newly proposed negotiating technique to work.

“There has been that trust and collaboration,” McCormick said.

McCormick said Monday will be the telling point on whether the union and the district will begin to use the affinity negotiating technique going forward. District 427 Superintendent Kathy Countryman said she thinks the technique is something the district and union could do as a collective group with their history of good bargaining practices.

“I think we could be a good candidate for it,” Countryman said.

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