May 17, 2019

Lake County court clerks win first contract

After four long years, employees at the Lake County Circuit Clerk’s Office finally have their first union contract.

The largely female workforce organized a union in early 2015. But then-clerk Keith Brin refused to negotiate with the employees. He spent tens of thousands of dollars fighting the workers and was eventually charged with violating Illinois labor law.

The clerks took matters into their own hands. They helped secure an AFSCME endorsement for Brin’s opponent, Erin Cartwright Weinstein and helped her win.

It changed the game completely for the new union.

“Erin Cartwright Weinstein was more willing to work with us,” said Local 3182 Bargaining Committee member Stephanie Erickson, who serves as a clerk in a felony courtroom.

Despite the backing of the new clerk, Local 3182 bargaining team members Tamara Luster, Angie Guzman, Lisa Strandberg and Erickson were at the table for two years as they pushed for adequate funding from the county board. They finally reached a four-year agreement, retroactive to 2016.

In addition to basic union rights like discipline for just cause, a grievance procedure, layoff and recall rights, and labor-management meetings, the team also secured overtime pay, created new job titles, boosted starting wages and won across-the-board wage increases totaling an effective 11%—plus a signing bonus—all while maintaining health insurance coverage.

“We fought really hard to improve wages and get people the overtime pay they deserved,” Erickson said. “It was a lengthy process to say the least but, in the end, we got we what needed. We’re really proud of how far we’ve come.”

Erickson said they look forward to making further improvements. After 12 years with the circuit court, she feels they are in a better place than ever before.

“Employees are much happier now that we have our contract in place,” she said. “Members have someone to go to with issues and concerns and a team that will absolutely fight for them and always have their back.”

And it’s a huge change to have an open and positive line of communication with the clerk.

“It felt amazing to get Brin out of office and get Cartwright Weinstein in,” she said.

“That’s what organizing is all about,” said AFSCME Council 31 Staff Representative Colin Theis who led negotiations for the local. “Making change for the better.”

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