October 24, 2017

Threat of service cuts, layoffs in Cook County

The Cook County board voted to repeal the tax on sweetened beverages, which was essential to filling the county’s gaping budget hole. Without new revenue, the county will look to service cuts and layoffs.

AFSCME members in Cook County were part of a grassroots groundswell that helped temporarily block a vote to repeal the county’s new pop tax—but in the end, the Cook County board voted to repeal the penny-per-ounce tax on sweetened beverages.

“Eight County Commissioners, along with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle did the right thing in voting for the tax,” AFSCME Council 31 Regional Director Helen Thornton said. “But now we’re facing a potential catastrophe.”

The Cook County Board will be adopting a budget for Fiscal Year 2018 later this fall and commissioners who repealed the pop tax have thus far failed to offer any alternative revenue proposals, instead opening the door to drastic cuts to critical public services, which translates to potentially hundreds of layoffs of county employees, many of whom are AFSCME members.

AFSCME members will attend public hearings on the budget to insist that those commissioners who led the charge to repeal the soda tax put forward other revenue measures that can avert service cutbacks and layoffs.

Union contracts for county employees expire on December 31. AFSCME’s bargaining committee, which includes elected representatives from all 15 local unions representing Cook County employees, began negotiating with the county in July. The repeal of the pop tax will make those negotiations all the more challenging.

“Our Bargaining Committee is firm in its demand for a fair contract. We need new revenue to help us achieve that goal,” Thornton said.

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