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Communication breakdown

Union strike continues after latest negotiations fail

Rex Robinson | 11/26/2013, 5:54 p.m.
Frustrations reached a high point earlier this week on the part of Will County leaders as more than six hours ...
Union members picket outside the Will County Courthouse on Friday. No compromise was reached during negotiations between union and county leaders on Monday. Photo by Rex Robinson

Frustrations reached a high point earlier this week on the part of Will County leaders as more than six hours of negotiations with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1028 failed to reach a compromise and end a more than week-long strike.

The problem, according to Will County Executive Larry Walsh, is members of AFSCME Local 1028 did not come prepared to the negotiating table on Monday. More than six hours of negotiations failed to produce a contract or any meaningful movement after more than a week of work stoppage by county union workers, according to Walsh.

“I am truly disappointed that the union was not prepared to make a formal counter proposal when we began today,” Walsh said Monday night. “After a week of picketing county facilities, and over a week since the last negotiations session broke off, the Union was not able to give us a meaningful counter offer and move us toward a resolution.”

Meanwhile, AFSCME Local 1028 president Dave Delrose said the union “came ready to bargain and work hard toward a compromise.

“Inexplicably, the county failed to bring its consultants on health care issues,” Delrose added. “As a result, county officials said they were unable to fully respond to AFSCME’s proposals on health premiums.”

However, Delrose said there was some movement by both parties. Give-and-take, he added, is what successful bargaining is all about.

“At the end of the day, management indicated it would work to reach its health advisers tomorrow,” he said.

Walsh and the county’s negotiation team have been meeting with AFSCME Local 1028 for more than 15 months, the last five months with the aid of a federal mediator, and the main sticking point remains increased health care costs and wage increases. Both sides have continued to return to the bargaining table, at the request of a federal mediator.

“After listening to all the speeches at last week’s County Board meeting, I really was optimistic that AFSCME would come in prepared to negotiate today,” Walsh said. “However, when we first met this morning the union requested information that it could have requested in our last bargaining session or, at a minimum, last week. The union indicated that without the information it first requested this morning, it was not prepared to give the County a counter proposal. Because of the union’s lack of preparation, the parties were unable to move forward constructively at today’s session. This type of conduct has been a recurring problem and has led to repeated delays throughout the many months of negotiations. This has to stop if we want to reach an agreement.”

Union members, including Delrose, packed into last week’s county board meeting to make a plea to elected officials to come back to the bargaining table and negotiate a fair contract.

“We are calling on the county board to work with us and resolve this dispute,” Delrose said.

A local pastor also spoke at the board meeting.

“Do the right thing and come back to the bargaining table,” said the Rev. Craig Purchase, pastor of the Mt. Zion Full Gospel Tabernacle with union families standing behind him at the podium.

More negotiations were tentatively planned for later in the week.

Rex Robinson can be reached at rex@thetimesweekly.com.