Some 400 production and maintenance employees of Juno Lighting Group in Des Plaines hit the picket lines Wednesday after rejecting terms of a tentative contract agreement, officials said.
Workers held signs outside the company's headquarters at 1300 S. Wolf Road in a strike organized by the Chicago & Midwest Regional Joint Board, Workers United.
"It's about whether or not people can live on $10 or $11 an hour and have to have two or three jobs and never pass time with their families," said Richard Monje, the Chicago-based union's local manager, in a video posted on the group's Facebook page.
"It's about the right to a decent wage and a decent salary."
In a separate video, employee Gabriel Mendez said workers were on strike because company officials aren't "giving us a fair wage for the labor we do."
"We feel they are not treating us with respect in what they offered," he said. "You can't even buy anything with how high the cost of living is right now -- that does not make enough for us to even support our own kids."
Steve Marrin, Juno's vice president of human resources, said bargaining teams for Juno and the union negotiated over the course of the previous six weeks in hopes of coming to terms on a new three-year collective bargaining agreement. The old three-year contract expired Sunday -- the same day a memorandum of agreement was reached with the help of a federal mediator.
Marrin said the company agreed to extend the old contract through Tuesday in order to give the union's membership an opportunity to vote on the tentative agreement.
Late that night, officials were informed a majority of workers rejected the pact.
"We believe the contract we negotiated … was fair and we negotiated that in good faith," Marrin said.
"We were surprised and disappointed in the ratification vote."
He said the tentative agreement called for general wage increases, life insurance and short-term disability benefits, and no increases to health insurance deductibles or out of pocket expenses -- but some increases to premiums.
Salaries of workers range from about $9 an hour to $20 an hour, based on length of service, Marrin said.
He said the factory remained open; some workers did come to work Wednesday, but the company was also planning to bring in some temporary workers.
Juno, an affiliate of Schneider Electric, has manufactured lighting fixtures from its Des Plaines plant since 1976.