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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - The Grand Rapids Public Schools teachers union voted Monday to approve a proposed contract with the district.
Grand Rapids Education Association President Paul Helder did not provide the percentage of those who voted in favor, but did say "it wasn't close" and the contract passed easily.
Less than half of all union members turned out to vote, according to Helder.
"I guess it's kind of like the presidential election that way," he said.
The approval of the contract was "certainly welcomed news," for the district, according to a statement from spokesman John Helmholdt.
The district and the union reached a tentative contract agreement March 18. Now that union members have approved it, it will go to the GRPS board Tuesday. If it is approved, it will last the rest of this year and another two thereafter.
Further details of the proposed contract are not yet known. Helder said he would release that information to 24 Hour News 8 after the school board approves the contract, assuming it does.
"As with any negotiation, you're going to get some stuff. You're not going to get other stuff," said Helder.
The nearly 1,500 members of the Grand Rapids Education Association have been working without a contract for more than seven months. Union members said along the way that the issues that stopped previous contract offers were things like low salary, increased health care costs and an elimination of step pay -- pay increases for serving more years in the district.
Teachers told 24 Hour News 8 Monday they have mixed feelings about the contract. Some said they feel demoralized within the district.
And the looming Thursday start of right-to-work makes some worry what may happen if the contract does not go into effect.
"Is the union going to be there tomorrow if we don't pass this contract?" wondered Jose Molero, a Spanish teacher and 20-year union member before the results of the vote were announced.
That unknown was such a big question for that for the first time teachers were given an exit interview and asked whether they decided to vote for the contract because they felt time was up.
24 Hour News 8 asked several teachers if they felt pressured to vote yes because of the looming right-to-work deadline.
"I feel like for my part, no," said Molero. "For the new teachers, yes, because they're the ones who are gonna suffer the most [under right to work]."
Melody Faith, an elementary school occupational therapist said, "Things are already bad enough I think you can't help but think about [the right-to-work deadline]."
President Helder said Monday night those exit interviews had not yet been reviewed, telling 24 Hour News 8 there are several "essay style" questions that will require a lot of time to adequately review.
A very dangerous situation was averted when crews contained a chemical leak during a fire at a business in Grand Haven Tuesday morning.
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Celebrating one of his personal heroes, President Barack Obama praised Nelson Mandela as the last great liberator of the 20th century, urging the world to carry on his legacy by fighting inequality, poverty and discrimination.