The faculty strike at Rock Valley College in Rockford continues Monday after professors rejected contract language proposed by a federal mediator brought in to assist with negotiations over a new labor agreement.
Faculty voted down the mediator's five-year contract proposal at a Sunday night meeting.
"The faculty was concerned about the increased costs through the board's proposed healthcare plan," Rock Valley College Faculty Association President and economics professor Michael Youngblood said in a statement. "The board cut off health insurance for professors since Wednesday, but the terms of the board's proposal would mean overwhelming healthcare costs for many educators, particularly those with illnesses and special needs."
Faculty at the two-year community college have been on strike since last Wednesday.
Upon news that the faculty association rejected the mediator's proposal, the community college posted a statement on its website, which said in part:
The Federal Mediator's proposed agreement was an agreement the Board and Administration were willing to approve in effort to achieve labor peace, despite the fact that it provided an estimated $350,000 in additional salary to the faculty. This would bring the total increase to around $4 million over five years and locked in insurance premium contributions for Faculty at 22.5% through 25% for the life of the entire five-year contract. In a time of economic uncertainty in the regional economy, and in a time of depleted revenues from the state and from property taxes, the Faculty could have had guaranteed raises for each faculty member for five years exceeding $1,000 in the first two years and exceeding $2,500 in the final year of the agreement - along with a locked-in premium contribution rate for a top of the line health care program which is below what most people have to pay for insurance. There is simply no other work force in the in this region, and perhaps in this state, which has had the opportunity for such a guaranteed package in such difficult economic times. One has to ask, what more do they want? How much more does this union want to take from the students and the taxpayers of this region to fund what amounts to a compensation package which would be the envy of the region?
Rock Valley College, the statement added, "is left with no other choice but to implement the offer it made on September 15, 2015 and attempt to move forward to salvage the semester. That final offer is set forth on the College's website. At the same time, the College's negotiation team remains willing to meet with the Faculty Union to resolve these negotiations."