March 10, 2011

Cook County employees vote on furloughs

AFSCME members in Cook County voted Thursday, March 10, on the County's proposal to halt planned layoffs if employees take unpaid furlough days.

AFSCME held worksite meetings throughout Cook County today for county employees who are members of 11 different AFSCME local unions. AFSCME members at these meetings reviewed and voted on county board president Toni Preckwinkle’s proposal to rescind threatened layoffs if county employees agree to 10 unpaid furlough days before November 30, 2011.

The members of six AFSCME local unions voted to accept the furlough proposal. The county is expected to rescind all 294 layoffs scheduled for members of these local unions.

Five local unions voted to reject it. Of these, one faced no layoffs and three could not avert layoffs by agreeing to furloughs. Only one local union that could have averted layoffs by accepting furloughs did not do so.

“Today’s decision was an extremely difficult one for our members. They had a right to make it for themselves,” AFSCME executive director Henry Bayer said. “Taking unpaid furloughs means agreeing to a pay cut that many county workers can ill afford, while those laid off would face unemployment in terrible economic times. Both layoffs and furloughs reduce the quality of public services for residents who rely on county government.”

The six AFSCME local unions voting to accept the furlough proposal include employees in the office of the state’s attorney (which faced 98 layoffs) and the assessor (48 layoffs), investigators who work for the public defender or medical examiner and juvenile detention caseworkers (42 layoffs), support staff of the public defender and the chief judge (66 layoffs), juvenile probation employees (29 layoffs), and employees in the office of the public guardian (11 layoffs).

The furlough proposal was rejected by AFSCME members at Stroger Hospital, Provident Hospital, Oak Forest Hospital, and in county public health clinics. President Preckwinkle stated that furloughs could not prevent scheduled layoffs in these locals caused by “restructuring” of the county health system.

Attorneys in the office of the public defender faced no layoffs and rejected the furlough proposal. Adult probation employees also voted to reject furloughs. A total of 40 layoffs are scheduled in this office.

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