November 16, 2013

Will County workers strike for fairness

Members of AFSCME Local 1028, representing some 1,200 Will County employees, began a strike Monday after management again refused to offer fair wages or back off a plan to double employee health care costs.

In a last-ditch round of negotiations on Nov. 13 and 14, representatives of the Will County board did not budge from their demand that employees accept a paltry wage increase after four years with no cost-of-living raise. Combined with the county’s demands on health care costs, management’s proposal amounts to a pay cut for many employees.

County employees voted to authorize a strike more than a month ago, but made every effort to seek a compromise, even delaying a planned work stoppage to return to negotiations at the request of a federal mediator.

"County workers went above and beyond at the bargaining table, just like we do in serving our community every day," AFSCME Local 1028 president Dave Delrose said.

"Management has refused to meet us halfway, demanding employees pay unaffordable costs for health insurance that would more than negate their paltry offer on pay," Delrose added. "Management knew its demands would force a strike but still they refused to compromise."

To help the county through tough times, employees represented by AFSCME agreed to forego a cost-of-living pay increase for the past four years. Today 40 percent of union members earn less than $30,000 annually.

Current contract talks have dragged on for 15 months with little sign of compromise by county management and little involvement by county executive Larry Walsh.

AFSCME represents more than 1,200 employees in the county court system, health department, highway department, Sunny Hill Nursing Home, county jail, and in the offices of the sheriff, coroner, recorder, assessor, clerk, chief judge, circuit clerk, executive and state's attorney.

"Larry Walsh and the county board leave us no choice but to strike for fair pay and health care we can afford," Delrose said. "We ask the support of all Will County residents who rely on the services we provide: Let the politicians know you support county workers.

"We want to work and serve the people, but management's demands have gone too far for too long. We are united and ready to stand together for fairness as long as it takes."

Related News