May 09, 2014

Winnebago County employees fight for fair pay

All For One

Upset with county management’s foot-dragging and failure to offer a fair wage increase in negotiations over a new union contract, frontline Winnebago County employees represented by AFSCME Local 473 demonstrated outside the County Board meeting in Rockford on May 8.

Many county employees are underpaid. Nearly half of the deputy clerks of the circuit court take home less than $28,700 a year for full-time work. Many employees of the county nursing home are paid poverty wages, with certified nursing assistants making less than $12 an hour and housekeepers and dietary staff barely more than $10. In the jail, a job study of surrounding counties found correctional officers underpaid by $2 an hour even as they go above and beyond to keep the jail safe despite chronic lack of staff.

"We deserve a living wage," Local 473 president Rose Jackson told WREX-TV. "We're one of the lowest paid counties, and we're fighting for better wages for our people."


AFSCME Local 473 represents some 650 county employees who work in the sheriff’s department, county jail, River Bluff Nursing Home, and the offices of the circuit court clerk, recorder of deeds, coroner, auditor, treasurer and county clerk. They're working under the terms of labor contracts that were slated to expire last October 1.

"AFSCME members care deeply about Winnebago County and work hard to ensure the safety and well-being of our community," AFSCME staff representative Ed Sadlowski said. "But too many county employees earn too little to provide for themselves and their families. It’s past time for the County Board to pay employees a living wage."

The protest drew widespread coverage in the local news media, including from the Rockford Register-Star and WTVO-TV:

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