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Teachers rally in Springfield

SPRINGFIELD -- About 600 teachers streamed into City Hall yesterday to protest their lack of a contract with the city as both sides continued renewed negotiations.

The crowd stood outside Mayor Charles Ryan's office clapping and chanting ''we want a contract, we want it now," after staging a rally a few blocks away in front of school department headquarters.

The teachers have not had a raise in four years and have sued the city for $6 million in frozen back wages. City officials have been unwilling to settle a contract unless the union drops the lawsuit. They say the cash-strapped city cannot afford to pay that money and fund a new contract.

But many teachers say it's unfair that they have not received money they've already been promised. ''You can't sustain a lifestyle on the same pay you got four years ago," said Gerry Wroblewski, a physical education teacher.

The union on Thursday presented the city with a new proposal, and city officials said they were trying to craft a response.

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