Letters show growing animosity in Kane County labor strike
Letters between union representatives and Kane County officials show increasing animosity and a stalemate over employee bonuses fueling a labor strike that is now more than a month old.
Chief Judge Susan Clancy Boles released a statement Monday rejecting a May 30 proposal from the union. She said the county will continue to seek "fair and reasonable" offers.
"The union position has been that they are entitled to annual 3.7 percent wage increases for the next 11 years, which would be a compounded 49 percent wage increase, unmatched by any surrounding county," Boles wrote.
A letter obtained by the Daily Herald that was sent to the union by the legal firm representing the county details the union's moves. The letter says the union made 11 statements between Feb. 8 and May 18 "demanding 3.7 percent wage increases."
"That is not seeking common ground," attorney David Heilmann wrote. "The suggestion that but for the offers of the union there would be no movement is patently false."
A timeline in the letter indicates the most recent proposal by the union May 30 includes raises and bonus payments amounting 3.25 percent and retroactive pay to Dec. 1, including the period when employees have been on strike. That's the proposal Boles rejected Monday.
Heilmann's letter to the union indicates strikers want to deal with Boles in person, but she has refused. The letter denies union claims Boles is being "divisive."
"It is hard to believe that this union, with the conduct we have observed, could possibly accuse someone else of being divisive," he wrote. "There have been personal attacks, threats, repeated misrepresentations to the public, the county board and other governing bodies."
Teamsters union officials responded with a statement and a two-sided flyer with a bullet-pointed list of grievances. The letter says Boles' offers are neither fair nor reasonable because they eliminate "a guaranteed path to top pay" of $60,000, even though the path the union agreed to takes 15 years to reach that top salary.
The union also calls out Boles for a "unilateral" decision to end the 15-year step increases in December. Union members are ready to agree on the annual percentage raises, but it's the lump sum/bonus payments that appear to be halting the negotiations. The flier refers to Boles' offerings on bonus payments as "menial." As a result, more than 3,000 people on probation for "sex offenses, domestic violence offenses, drug offenses and those on pretrial supervision" are not being properly monitored, the flier states.
The county board's labor management committee will meet Wednesday. So far, board members have been unwilling to free up more money to help Boles and the union come to an agreement.