Union files complaint against Crystal Lake District 47 over ‘unlawful’ use of temp agency to fill jobs

Union says the district violated labor laws and its actions left staff members ‘humiliated and undervalued’

Union president Stephanie Lieurance talks to members of the Crystal Lake District 47 paraprofessional union as they meet outside Lundahl Middle School on Monday, Aug. 28, 2023, for an update on the union's complaint against District 47 for using a staffing agency to fill paraprofessional positions.

Crystal Lake Elementary School District 47 and the union representing its support staff are still in a conflict over the district’s use of a temp agency to fill vacant paraprofessional positions.

The Crystal Lake Association of Support Staff union and the Illinois Education Association first spoke out against the district’s use of a temp agency at the start of the school year in August.

Two months later, CLASS officially filed what’s known as a charge against District 47 with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board on Oct. 31.

The IEA and CLASS requested for a hearing with the board and the district. The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board will investigate and set a deadline for District 47 to respond. If the board finds the charge has merit, the board will hold a hearing, said the board’s special counsel, John Brosnan. So far, the board has not set a date for when the district will need to respond, Brosnan said.

CLASS President Stephanie Lieurance wrote in an email to the Northwest Herald that district officials to her they are “prepared to compensate a subset of paraprofessionals at the same hourly rate that the staffing firm was paying their temporary personnel.”

“However, the union maintains that each and every paraprofessional was negatively impacted, humiliated, and undervalued due to the unlawful activities and breach of contract committed by the employer,” she said.

District 47 bargained with the union on Aug. 15 and 16, but did not reach an agreement, the charge said.

Lieurance received text messages on or about Aug. 10 from a paraprofessional in the CLASS union sharing screenshots of text messages received from Sunbelt Staffing about open paraprofessional positions at the district, the charge said.

“The district never provided the union with advanced notice of its intent to subcontract union members’ work, as it was obligated to do,” the charge said.

According to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act, staffing agencies are only allowed in emergency situations that threaten the safety or health of the students or staff. The school board also must provide an opportunity to bargain with the union before hiring a staffing agency.

District 47 used Sunbelt staffing agency to fill nine paraprofessional positions at the start of the school year. The agency receives $56 to $65 for every hour a temporary employee works, district Director of Communications Kari Firak said.

District 47 paraprofessionals are paid at a rate of $16.14 per hour, according to the district website.

The district’s need is an emergency, Hodges, Loizzi, Eisenhammer, Rodick & Kohn LLP, the law firm representing the district, said in a statement in August.

The school board met with the Crystal Lake Association of Support Staff twice to bargain regarding the “district’s emergency temporary need to use a staffing firm to fill nine paraprofessional positions that serve some of our most vulnerable students,” District 47′s attorneys said.

District 47 declined to comment.

District 47 hosted a job fair in September in hopes to fill 18 vacant paraprofessional positions. Currently, the district has nine open paraprofessional positions listed online.