JOLIET, Ill. (CBS) — Municipal workers in Will County said they’re in it for the long haul as they entered day four of a labor strike, with no sign of an agreement.
CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports the county and its workers have been negotiating for 15 months, to no avail.
Thursday morning, a large crowd of striking employees picketed at the county board meeting, chanting “2, 4, 6, 8, the county should negotiate” as board members entered the chambers in Joliet.
Hundreds of county workers represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 walked off the job Monday. The workers include clerks and office staff from several county departments, including health, highway, and court staff.
After the first day of the strike, a judge ordered deputy coroners, 911 dispatchers, health inspectors and communicable diseases investigators to return to work, ruling their jobs were vital to public safety, and they were not eligible to strike.
Union officials have said the county’s officer of modest pay increases over the next three years would not cover the increase in health care costs.
“I stand here as a single mom, and I watch the support that we have out here, and I know that I’m not alone. I’ve struggled for 10 years struggled raising kids by myself on my income,” said Kacey Scofield, a legal secretary for will co. state’s attorney
Scofield said, with her pay, she can’t afford rent or a mortgage.
“I already live at my parents’ house in one bedroom with my kids now. I can’t imagine if we take what the county is asking us to take, what more that’s going to do for us,” she said.
AFSCME said 40 percent of Will County employees make less than $30,000 a year.
Circuit court clerk office worker Jessica Wilhelmi said her take-home pay last year was only $22,000.
Will County spokesman Bruce Tidwell said, “We feel that our offer is very fair. Over a 4-year contract, we are offering 14.5 percent pay increases.”
But the workers said, with health care premiums going up, their salaries would end up the same, or even lower than they are now.
“The cost of medical alone is going to affect what groceries we can afford; what we can give to our families. Christmas alone is going to be difficult,” said Brooke Brewer, an administrative clerk.
The county said they’ve been able to provide services just fine during the strike, using temps to fill in the holes left by striking workers.
A federal mediator must call both sides back to the bargaining table to resume negotiations.