County Workers Get $250 Bonus For Working During Blizzard

Updated 02/11/11 – 5:06 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — While Cook County officials have been working to close a $487 million budget deficit, union employees at its health and hospital system are being paid $250 bonuses for coming into work during last week’s blizzard.

Cook County Health and Hospital System spokesman Lucio Guerrero confirmed that officials decided to pay the bonus to union doctors and nurses who showed up to work during the blizzard on Feb. 2.

“This is something we had to do,” Guerrero said. “People couldn’t get to work. They wouldn’t have come to work. I was picking up nurses in my vehicle.”

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As CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez reports, employees were told about the bonuses before the blizzard, but only about 25% of union nurses and doctors showed up for work on the day of the storm.

Guerrero also confirmed that health system managers and other non-union employees were given comp time for showing up during the blizzard. He said that is common practice in the health care industry.

But Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer (D-10th) said she wasn’t so sure.

“I don’t think that that’s a commonplace occurrence,” Gainer said.

Representatives of three other Chicago hospitals — Rush University Medical Center, the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center and Northwestern Memorial Hospital — said they didn’t give out bonuses to employees who came to work during the blizzard.

Officials at Northwestern said they encouraged employees to pack a bag to bring to work before the blizzard hit in case they needed to stay at the hospital.

Rush and UIC officials said they offered employees a place to sleep and provided meals so that employees did not have to venture out into the blizzard.

Gainer said she has no problem giving the union workers at the county’s hospitals and health clinics a bonus for coming in during the blizzard, but she said it’s not appropriate to give management comp time for showing up to work on a scheduled day.

“This is a time when the county is really facing a lot of cuts and people are losing their jobs and we need to be mindful of that,” she said.

John Tillman, CEO of the Illinois Policy Institute, a conservative think tank, said “Every one of those $250 bonuses, each of those dollars came out of the pocket of somebody who went to work that day to make money to pay taxes to give money to somebody who should have gone to work and not have to be paid an incentive to do it,”

No one disputes that it took extra effort to get to work the day the blizzard struck. But was it worth a $250 bonus?

“It’s a terrible use of taxpayer dollars especially when you have 750,000 people out of work in the state of Illinois,” Tillman said. “They would die to have those jobs and get over there for regular pay, let alone bonus pay.”

All over the city, firemen, police officers, hotel doormen, and cabdrivers showed up for work, like any other day.

One cab driver said “That’s not fair to me because I get no bonus if I work that very day.”

One hotel worker said his bosses didn’t give out bonuses to people who showed up to work during the blizzard.

“No, my bonus was being here in the hotel for three days in a row because I couldn’t get out,” he said.

But even one of his colleagues who also braved the elements for no extra pay said that a bonus is just a nice thing to do.

“I think that’s good because they made an effort. That’s really good.”

Guerrero defended the decision to hand out the bonuses and comp time, despite the county’s budget problems.

“We wanted to recognize our nurses and this is a way that we thought we could do that with money already budgeted for purposes such like this,” Guerrero said.

He said the money came out of the overtime budget, at a time when the hospital is doing well financially.

“I would say taxpayers should be happy we were able to bring back $95 million last year in the budget,” Guerrero said. “The CEO of our Board, Bill Foley, made the call.”

Cook County’s health system is overseen by an independent board, headed by Chief Executive Officer William Foley.

Earlier this year, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle demanded 16 percent budget cuts from all county departments. A number of departments, including the Cook County Sheriff’s office, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office and the Cook County Public Defender’s office said those cuts would have been too deep. The sheriff’s office agreed to cut 12 percent. The state’s attorney’s office and public defender’s office agreed to 10 percent cuts.

CBS 2 Political Producer Ed Marshall contributed to this report.

  • nauseated

    This is truely sad! We’ve been able to see what public workers are all about. In order for them to actually show up to work and earn their pay, they need to get a bonus. Management gets comp time as well for just showing up to work (won’t say they earn their pay) So what do we do with the Cook County Sherrif’s office with 20% of their 6800 employees on medical leave? Offer them bonuses as well?

    Ridiculous salaries, skillsets that can’t cut it in the private sector, retirement at 52 with lavish pensions and now bonuses to encourage public employees to actually show up to earn their pay is what makes Illinois the sesspool it has become.

    • Thnx!!!

      WELL SAID!!!!!

  • jeking

    I agree with the comment above – my property taxes are going up yet my house has lost over $100,000 in value…sickening…so much for the “budget cuts”. I wish all these government offices would learn to do with the budgets they already have in place..private citizens have to deal with pay cuts and/or no raises…and private citizens are expected to do with what we already have. Don’t these people already get paid??? Why do they need a bonus just to do their jobs? Hey don’t forget that now we are losing more money out of our paychecks because the state is stupid in managing our money…and now they got a 67% tax increase to get out of this mess…I wonder if the state government workers will be receiving their annual “cost of living” raise????? Private citizens don’t – that’s for sure. That needs to stop.

    • shannon

      Yeah, and we wouldn’t have to pay all of those taxes if we didn’t bail out the banks so they could give their CEO’s huge bonuses. Oh yeah but they were all high value private sector workers who deserved the giant checks WE THE AMERICAN TAXPAYERS are all paying for, right. And your property taxes are probably school taxes that pay for the children of illegals who shouldn’t be here anyway.

    • Berni Strunz

      a RATS NEST ..any CIVIL JOB …filled with LOAFERS …they hang out and complain …a ten YEAR OLD DOES MORE WORK …

  • whatajoke

    HUHH?? the money is coming out of an existing ovetime account??? As a previous(laidoff) crook county hospital employee I was told there is no overtime!! Im sure just like everything else in the count hospital system ya gotta know someone or be workin to get somebody votes to tap into that overtime account!!

  • Joe Patroni

    I am unemployed and have been for nearly a year now and sent out 100s of resumes. If I had a job, I would have shown up to work without a bonus.

  • iris

    Only in Chicago.. so infuriating I can’t find the proper words. Isn’t this their job?.

  • leeny

    I am a taxpayer and unemployed. I think they did the right thing. They were committed workers and it was dangerous trying to venture out to work.

  • Lew

    These losers make me absolutely sick. Plus, they got a day off today. Our tax dollars are going to a bunch of morons that are incapable of getting jobs in the private sector. Under the dummycrats, people who try hard are punished while people who have done nothing get rewarded.

    • Berni Strunz

      not only THAT …Garbage men think they are COPS ,,,unbridled POWER …they THINK they OWN YOU !! LOL ….

  • KFM

    wait did you go into work? If not why do you expect the rest of us to risk our lives? I had to go to work as I was considered an essential employee. I was not given a bonus, but I was given comp time. I am not sure what you think these people should do. If you can’t reasonably get to work because of the snow why do you think it is okay nurses to risk theirs for you? leeny has it right!!!


    Was this in the by laws of the budget to allocate funds from one fund to another? Are they over stepping their fiduciary rights? Does it say under these conditions these people get this? I think they need an audit!

  • Angela Wojslaw

    What the news story did not mention, is that the bonus was not offered until AFTER the fact. The doctors, nurses and ancillary staff who struggled into work, some spending 4 hours digging themselves out beofre their shift, deserve some sort of compensation. It should also be noted, that many non-County hospitals, while technically not offering a bonus, paid their employees who made it into work, time and a half. Had it not been for these dedicated staff, who would have cared for the patients?

  • Tom

    Im not a county worker or a public employee. Like others, my taxes are too high as it is and to be frank, mine are probably higher than most. But for folks like “Nauseated”, I say this. You are the same people that would be complaining if county services were not available to you if workers had stayed home. You would be whinning about this county office being closed or that county office being closed. You’d be bemoaning the fact that you couldn’t pick up your meds or see a doctor, or grab a form at a given office. If you feel that county work is the cat’s meow why don’t you apply? Why do i have to pay 50 bucks for a pair of tennis shoes that were made in another country for 75 cents. Because the corporations pay line level employees, managers and upper management staff too much. They throw too many parties and give out too many bonuses. That’s why I pay 50 dollars for a 75 cent pair of shoes.

    • nauseated

      Ya, I’ll complain some more. Like when 2 guys stole a guys dog out of his yard and a village worker stood there and watched and didn’t report it. Or how about when a poor soul drove his car thru a fence and ended up in the harbour and drowned and later city workers came to fix the fence but never bothered to follow the tire tracks that led to the car still in the water and report what they saw. The family worried for 3 months hoping their son would return safely and alive. The city worker – “not my job mon.” Maybe they needed a bonus to actually report what they saw and fill out the paperwork. I always thought the bonus was you did good work and got to keep your job.

      This is what public workers are all about. Little work, lots of pay & lavish benes all at taxpayers expense. Most other states are bragging they’re making cuts to avoid tax increases but not Illinois. Raises and pension increases for everyone. Only private workers are suffering.

      • Tom

        Well, clearly you have no use for public employees or what they do so whateve you do, hold your ground and make us proud. If a the road falls apart in front of your home, don’t call public works. If your house is on fire don’t call, the fire department. If your home alone and some nut is beating down your door at 3:00 a.m., don’t call the cops. Take care of all these issues on your own and you’ll be the envy of the town.

    • Catherine

      VERY well said Tom!

  • Sara Spitz

    I am 73 years old, and I went to work on Wednesday, the day after the storm, and so did my 70 years old co worker, because we feel fortunate to have a job. My dad used to walk three miles in the winter to catch a train to get to work when the drifts were too high to drive through, and he didn’t get a bonus; in fact if he didn’t do it, he wouldn’t have a job. How appalling!

  • nauseated

    >If you feel that county work is the cat’s meow why don’t you apply?<
    Sorry, forgot to address that point.

    The county won't hire me. I actually know what I'm doing and show up for work every day without a bonus. Also, I don't want to worry I'll loose my job if I don't vote for the right party.

  • Joe

    I had to come to work both the night of the blizzard and the next night in the aftermath. Am I going to see a bonus… No instead, I was cut from work both nights, after making maybe 12 bucks for both days….

  • Matilda

    Employees at Oak Forest Hospital didn’t find out about the bonus until after the storm. The employees that stayed overnight or showed up deserve a bonus or some type of compensation. Those employees planned ahead to care for patients and for their own safety. Administrators, Nurse Mgrs., and Directors should not get compensation. They get a good salary to handle any crisis that might occur (they work in a 24/7 facility). All of them should have been required to stay overnight. If Stroger is generating revenue then why is the Board closing Oak Forest Hospital to save money. What’s in Mr. Foley’s wallet?

  • Avg Joe

    corruption at the crook county level…pay the lackies to show up for work,…I need a job like that. Guess it’s who you know ….like Quinn pandering for votes, hires that state rep that got voted out, then the next day she votes for his tax hike ( deciding vote she cast) and the next day she winds up with a cushy state job…..
    RECALL QUINN 2011………..

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  • Jay

    Health care professionals are people of humanistic qualities, not immortals. They are required to care for sick people of all faucets of life, to come to work and risk their health and safety just as any other human being for the love of patients having someone present at these hospitals to care for them and their loved ones was truly a labor of love and concern.The compensation for this was commendable. No one that goes to work with bills and increases in taxes, do it for charity. Health care workers are people too. Give them a break. If these workers did not get out and fight through the blizzard that affected them as well as their loved ones, THE BLIZZARD OF 2011, would have had grave consequences,and these comments would have been of a far different tone. So instead of complaining be thankful that we didn’t make the news for fatalities.

    • Catherine

      very well said Jay!

  • Catherine

    what would all you people if you had a medical emergency with you or a loved one and there was no one at the hospital to take care of them??? why dont you be thankful that the ones that did show up to work were there to help people in need…I bet those people that did need any type of medical attention that day wont be on here complaining about those individuals that got a bonus..


    You mean the people who were out those days trying to plow the streets
    sidewalk parking lots risking there lives so every one can go to work and
    can go to schools also saving lives to prevent injury ,Sure Doctors and nurses deserve it but be equal and pay everyone that was involved with the billzard. city
    workers and forest preserve workers plowing snow to prevent people from going to the hospital keeping streets and sidewalk free from snow also deserve it we worked very hard for days be equal.

  • MAGS


  • County RN

    I work at County and went to work that day. None of us who were able to make it in, or worse yet, all the nurses who had been there since 7pm the night before, and were forced to stay until 11am, were told about any $250 bonus as an incentive to come to work – so that part just isn’t true.

    All the others who were picked up, and came in later, also didn’t know about any bonus.

    Worse yet, it isn’t even clear that a nurse who worked for 16 hours (or almost 20 hours as one of my co-workers did), will get time and a half, because as Guerrero told MSNBC, awarding bonuses is cheaper than overtime.

    We didn’t ask for a bonus, Foley, who makes $500,000 a year, decided on his own to do this. Isn’t it interesting how it is now being used to further stereotype public sector workers as “lazy and overpaid.”

    If they shut down County, most of us will be able to find work, because if you can survive at County, you can work anywhere. The people who will really suffer will be the uninsured and jobless, and are they really the ones who deserve more punishment for this mess caused by Wall Street bankers?

    • Catherine

      if they are giving a $250 bonus instead of paying overtime then that is wrong…I personally think you all sould get paid the overtime AND the $250 bonus. I have never worked in heathcare, but I have unfortunately been in the hospital enough times with sick family members and see what a difficult job mentally and physically it can be….and to have to be there for so many hours straight I feel you would all deserve much better! GOD Bless all the staff that work at the hospitals!


    WY is it that there is an investigation on the city’s trucks that are siting in there
    yards and paying others to do the jobs that was needed in the blizzard. OK you
    looked at that and still have not looked at the new trucks that was needed out in
    the Forest Preserve of Cook County. I think there should be an Investigation in
    what has bin going on with spending money vary foolishly. With going on Four
    years no raise cost of living going up and now Fifty one Dollars out of our
    check taken out if as doe we wasn’t hurting already. Yes a full Investigation is in order. Not Fayre.

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