Will Co. workers union sets strike prep meetings
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain email@example.com September 26, 2013 2:04AM
Updated: October 28, 2013 7:22AM
Will County government’s largest employee union has scheduled three meetings with its 1,260 members to discuss strike preparations.
“Our goal is to get a settlement, but if we have to go on strike to get a fair settlement, then we’re going to be prepared to do it,” said Dave Delrose, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1028, which covers workers in a variety of county offices.
Local 1028 members have been without a contract for almost a year, and little progress was made at Tuesday’s negotiation session, Delrose said.
“There was some movement from both parties, but it was a very short meeting and we were done by 12:30 p.m.,” he said.
As a result, the union is going ahead with strike preparation meetings on Thursday, Saturday and Monday, Delrose said. Members need to know in advance what will happen if a strike takes place “instead of trying to put it all together at the last minute,” he said.
If the AFSCME members strike, it would be the biggest labor action in Will County since 780 machinists walked off the job May 1 at the Caterpillar plant in Joliet. After the 16-week strike ended, the machinists’ union levied fines on members who crossed the picket line. But Delrose said that’s not something AFSCME does in Illinois.
“No members have been fined for crossing picket lines, and the local is not going to do that either,” he said.
County officials must be given 10 days notice before Local 1028 workers can strike. The only members who cannot strike are sheriff’s police officers, sergeants and lieutenants and county jail guards and their sergeants and lieutenants, Delrose said.
But hundreds of other county workers could walk out, including assistant state’s attorneys, civilians in the sheriff’s office and employees who work for the county executive, coroner, recorder, assessor, circuit court clerk, county clerk, Sunny Hill Nursing Home, health department, jail and chief judge’s office.
If a strike occurs, county government would be seriously affected because many services “are either directly or indirectly supported by members of (Local) 1028,” Delrose said.
He said everything from getting a birth certificate or election information from the county clerk’s office to having meals served to nursing home residents or jail inmates could be disrupted. A strike also would cripple the courthouse, he said, because union clerks do most of the paperwork and record what happens in all court proceedings.
Contract talks have been dragging because the two sides are far apart on health insurance payments and pay raises, Delrose said.
Local 1028 members now contribute 1 percent of their pay for individual health insurance coverage and 2 percent for family coverage. But the county wants to shift to a system where employees would pay a percentage of their insurance premium. That, along with little or no money for raises, would mean some employees would take home less in their paychecks, Delrose has said.
Nick Palmer, chief of staff for County Executive Larry Walsh, has said the 2.5 percent “step” raises on the salary schedule that most Local 1028 members have received for the past eight years or so should be counted as pay raises. Step raises are given to employees based on years of service until they reach the top of their pay scale.
Palmer could not be reached Wednesday to comment on Tuesday’s contract talks or the union’s upcoming strike preparation meetings.
The county has 15 union contracts that all expired Dec. 1, seven with Local 1028. Because Local 1028 is the county’s largest union, its contract often sets the tone for the pay and benefits for the county’s roughly 2,300 union and nonunion employees.