Members of AFSCME Local 1028 ratified a new contract last week after a 15-month long struggle for fair pay, affordable health care and respect on the job. The pact was reached after a 16-day strike by more than 1,000 frontline county employees. An overwhelming majority voted to ratify the contract. Workers stood up with the support of their community.
“Our strike was about ensuring county employees have the fair pay and affordable health care they deserve in return for their hard work, dedication and service to county residents,” Local 1028 Pres. Dave Delrose said. “We didn’t want to see our wages lose ground when the cost of living goes up, and we weren't going to accept a health plan where the lowest-paid employees were asked to do more than the highest-paid. By standing together we reached a fair settlement that achieves those goals.”
The new contract is a four-year agreement retroactive to Dec.1, 2012, and extending through Nov. 30, 2016. It includes cost-of-living wage increases totaling 4.5 percent. Importantly, it eliminates the county pay plan's two bottom steps, in effect adjusting the wage scale upward a further 5 percent while ensuring that employees will continue to receive step increases. The agreement also ensures that increased costs for health care are shared equitably based on employees' ability to pay.
County employees already went four years without a cost-of-living increase, and 40 percent earned less than $30,000 a year. Despite that, they were earlier asked to accept a proposal that would have drastically increased health care costs without adequate wage increases, making it effectively a pay cut for many workers. Local 1028 members went on strike Nov. 18 after the county refused to agree to a contract that included fair wages and affordable health insurance costs.
“Will County employees stood up and won fairness, justice and respect on the job,” Council 31 Exec. Dir. Henry Bayer, also an AFSCME International vice president, said. “The unity and determination of AFSCME Local 1028 members to fight for what's right, no matter the odds, sets an example for us all.”
“We thank everyone in the community for the tremendous outpouring of support,” Delrose said. “To everyone who hung a sign or joined our picket lines, donated to our cause or just honked and waved, we couldn't have done it without you. Now we're glad to be back at work, serving you, our neighbors and the countless friends across the county that we never knew we had.”
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