Will County employee union clears the way for possible strike
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain email@example.com October 17, 2013 7:34PM
Updated: November 19, 2013 6:35AM
JOLIET — As expected, members of Will County government’s largest employees union have given their bargaining committee the power to call a strike.
About 1,000 members of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1028 were eligible to cast ballots, and 90 percent of those who voted approved the strike authorization, according to an AFSCME news release late Thursday afternoon.
The release included an ultimatum for county officials: “Return to the bargaining table next Tuesday, Oct. 22, and make meaningful progress toward an agreement with fair pay and affordable health care for county employees or face a possible county workers’ strike in the weeks to come.”
The two sides have been negotiation for 14 months on a new contract to replace one that expired Dec. 1. The union covers 1,260 employees in the county court system, health department, highway department, Sunny Hill Nursing Home, county jail and the offices of the sheriff, coroner, recorder, assessor, clerk, county executive and state’s attorney.
Local 1028 president Dave Delrose has said that the county’s proposed higher health insurance costs for employees will eat into take-home pay that hasn’t increased in four years. The county is offering small cost-of-living raises, which Delrose said isn’t enough to offset the higher insurance costs.
County officials said the 2.5 percent raises that most workers get as they advance on the salary scale should count as raises. Also, the county budget is tight, and workers haven’t had a major change in how they pay for medical insurance in many years, officials said.
If the union’s bargaining committee calls a strike, it must give the county 10 days notice before workers can walk out. But union officials said a strike will only be a last resort.
“Will County employees are committed to serving this community, and while we remain hopeful the county won’t provoke us to strike for simple fairness, our members are clearly prepared to stand together for what’s right,” Delrose says in the news release.