Striking Kane County workers challenge Lauzen to end walkout
In what they described as an appeal for someone, anyone, to help end their need to strike, about two dozen Kane County probation officers and youth counselors carried picket signs telling county board Chairman Chris Lauzen to "DO YOUR JOB!" Wednesday morning.
But when they got some facetime with Lauzen, he told them ending the strike is not his job.
The group of 118 employees began the strike 38 days ago. Lauzen told them he appreciates the work they do, but their employer is the court system and Chief Judge Susan Clancy Boles, not himself and the county.
"I feel the only constructive role that I can and should play is how we pay for the funds that are needed at the point when negotiations are over," Lauzen said. "I don't like it, but in this circumstance, I'm not in charge."
With that in mind, Lauzen asked the union members to develop accurate signs if they plan to continue picketing the county building.
Isabel Ocon, one of the probation officers on strike, told Lauzen the Teamster union members are tired of him, the county board and Boles "passing the buck" on what is needed to reach a new contract agreement.
"If there is something you can do to help, that's what we're asking for," Ocon said.
Lauzen said Boles has asked the county for more money to end the strike. But the board is not going to give her a set amount of cash to work toward an agreement. He and the board will provide money only after the negotiating teams come to terms, he told the workers.
That job, in his view, is much more difficult now that the majority of the county board rejected a plan to switch the employee insurance plan provider, he said. Lauzen told the strikers the switch would have freed up $1 million to possibly help with salary costs.
Board members who rejected the switch pointed to funds already committed in the budget to pay for an increase in insurance costs plus a general lack of trust in the numbers projecting a savings as some of the reasons they voted to stay with Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
"It's my job, and I think it's the board's job, to let the negotiators do their work," Lauzen said.
Even as Lauzen spoke, Boles walked past the group of workers and into the county building for a closed-door discussion about the strike. The county board's labor management committee also met for two hours in a separate closed-door meeting.