June 29, 2021

Cook County employees win contract

After bargaining late into the night of June 22, negotiations for a new contract for 4,000 Cook County employees were interrupted when a fire forced everyone to evacuate the downtown Chicago building at 3 o’clock in the morning.

But the bargaining committee, made up some 50 representatives from 13 local unions, was undeterred. They moved to another building and continued bargaining. After more than 24 hours at the table the committee reached a tentative agreement with the county that morning. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle came to congratulate the team on their new contract.

“This was a massive undertaking and a real team effort,” said Deputy Director Mike Newman who led negotiations for AFSCME. “The committee came together, they cared about each other and were fighting for one another’s issues. In addition to annual cost-of-living increases, we were able to restructure the pay plan so that every single AFSCME member got a significant pay bump that’s equitable across the board.”

The intense final day of bargaining capped more than eight months of negotiations in which the union firmly resisted management’s takeaway demands.

The fight escalated June 10 when hundreds of AFSCME members took to informational picket lines at the county hospital and criminal and juvenile courts buildings, drawing media attention and making plain to management that county workers wouldn’t back down.

“The lesson is clear,” said Newman. “When we stand and fight together in solidarity, we can make real progress for both union members and the people we serve.”

The ratification vote held June 29 overwhelmingly affirmed the settlement with 98% voting yes. The contract covers universal issues for AFSCME members at the county as well as unique terms for different offices covered in 11 separate agreements.  

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