December 19, 2017

Workforce Woes

Chicago Tribune – Dec. 16, 2017

Employees of Cook County government are on the job serving county residents 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They’re doctors, nurses, medical technicians, sheriff’s deputies, criminal prosecutors and public defenders. They’re probation officers in the streets, correctional officers in the jail, and clerks in the nation’s largest court system. They’re clerical workers, skilled trades people and everything in between.

But readers wouldn’t know any of that from your recent editorials. Since the repeal of the county sweetened-beverage tax, you have consistently attacked county public service workers and their unions instead of confronting the consequences of the revenue repeal you called for.

There is no factual basis for your claims that there are too many county workers or that they are too highly paid. In reality, nearly 3,000 jobs—more than 10 percent of the workforce—have been cut since 2010. That makes it harder for the remaining workers to effectively serve the public. What’s more, over the past decade, union negotiated pay increases have averaged less than 2 percent per year, barely keeping pace with inflation.

The Tribune opposed asking all county residents to share the cost of supporting public services through a minimal, voluntary tax on unhealthy drinks. Your alternative—asking only those few county residents who work for the county to close the bud get hole alone through layoffs and pay cuts—is both unwarranted and unfair.

Like everyone who works for a living, we believe that Cook County employees should make a wage sufficient to support a family. We also believe that every county resident deserves a county workforce sufficient to protect public safety, promote public health, operate a fair and efficient judicial system, and accomplish its many other vital responsibilities. That requires raising adequate revenue, not swinging an ideologically driven budget ax.

— Jorge Ramirez, Chicago Federation of Labor, Chicago

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