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St. Coletta’s chief responds to protest, blames state

Uniemployees St. Coletta's Illinois Tinley Park protested Wednesday demanding living wage new unicontract they are negotiating. The workers said they

Union employees at St. Coletta's of Illinois in Tinley Park protested Wednesday, demanding a living wage in the new union contract they are negotiating. The workers said they have not received a raise in more than 10 years. | Nick Swedberg ~ For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 10, 2014 7:06AM



The head of a nonprofit group in Tinley Park targeted by protesting employees over pay this week said the state of Illinois is to blame for stagnant wages.

Andrew Collins Jr., is the executive director of St. Coletta’s of Illinois, which provides group home living and education to people with severe disabilities. He said it recognizes that their caregivers aren’t paid as much as they should be.

A group of St. Coletta’s caregivers and teachers, representing the more than 250 union workers with the organization, demonstrated Wednesday outside the main office in Tinley Park. They’re in negotiations with St. Coletta’s and are seeking better pay.

“We’re very sympathetic with their plight,” Collins said.

St. Coletta’s is facing financial hardships of its own, he said. It’s expecting to run a deficit “in the six figures” this year.

“The reason they haven’t had raises is that we haven’t had an increase from the state in that same time,” Collins said.

A large portion of funding that St. Coletta’s receives comes from the Illinois Department of Human Services, Collins said. He’s hoping that lawmakers will approve a proposed state income tax increase to help fund all organizations, including St. Coletta’s.

The union workers are in the second year of a three-year contract, Collins said. Management agreed to reopen the contract and have been at the negotiating table with workers for four months.

The offer from St. Coletta’s is a 1 percent increase this year for workers who have been with the group for more than 10 years, Collins said. Next year, workers who have been on the job three to 10 years will get a 1 percent increase. They’ve also agreed to absorb any health care cost increases next year.

“It’s the best we can do,” Collins said.

Caregivers at St. Coletta’s make $10 to $10.50 an hour on average, said Jeff Dexter, staff representative from American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers Council 31, on Wednesday. He said the proposed pay raise, which works out to be about 10 cents an hour, isn’t enough for employees who have not seen an increase from St. Coletta’s for years.

The union’s own analysis of St. Coletta’s finances showed that there are other funding sources that could pay for wage increases, he said.

The workers have planned at least one more protest in May.



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