June 29, 2017

Bargaining underway for Chicago and Cook County employees

As 21 AFSCME locals in City of Chicago and Cook County government prepare to bargain this summer, nearly 10,000 employees stand united for a fair contract.

Cook County

In Cook County, 15 AFSCME local unions representing county employees all bargain as one team on core issues—such as wages and health care—to maximize bargaining power, while meeting separately to negotiate on localized issues.

Bargaining surveys are being completed and the bargaining committee elected and a top goal is the importance of having tight timelines for negotiations. No one wants to see a rerun of the last round of contract negotiations, which took more than two years to wrap up.

One of the most important factors in gaining a fair contract is the state of Cook County finances. Last year, faced with a gaping budget hole, the Cook County Board took the bold step of enacting a tax on “sweetened beverages” such as pop, iced tea and sports drinks.

The tax is expected to bring in $74 million for the county in the 2017 fiscal year. In 2018 and 2019, it is expected to net about $220 million annually. According to Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle’s Administration, without the tax, close to 1,000 positions would have to be cut from the State’s Attorney, Public Defender, Sheriff’s Office, and Health and Hospitals System.

Like cigarette taxes, the sweetened-beverage tax is intended as both a revenue-raising and a public health measure. There is a growing body of evidence that sugary drinks are a major contributor to obesity, especially among children.

AFSCME supported the sweetened-beverage tax and will oppose its repeal absent a clear alternative revenue measure that can assure that Cook County will be able to continue to provide the public services on which citizens rely, avert layoffs, and treat employees fairly. If the tax is repealed, it will make the bargaining climate for Cook County employees even tougher.

City of Chicago

The six AFSCME locals representing City of Chicago employees have been hard at work laying the necessary groundwork in advance of negotiations.

Nearly 1,000 union members completed bargaining surveys, with most ranking wages, protecting health care, privatization and layoffs as key issues. The bargaining committee has been elected and is reviewing all suggested bargaining proposals.

AFSCME members work in nearly every city department, including libraries, police, transportation, health, aviation, law, water, family support, animal care, finance and more.

Standing together for a fair contract

“City of Chicago and Cook County employees are critical to the functioning of the city and county, and the well-being of its people,” Roberson said. “We make everything work.”

With severe fiscal problems at both City of Chicago and Cook County, it’s going to take the involvement of the nearly 10,000 AFSCME members in the local governments standing firmly united to win a fair contract.

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