DuPage probation employees rally to demand higher pay
DuPage County probation employees who have been working months without a new contract rallied Tuesday outside the county courthouse to push for a new deal.
The workers -- represented by the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees -- publicly called on Chief Judge Daniel Guerin "to strengthen public safety by settling a fair contract with decent wages."
"Negotiations have been going on for eight months," said Kathy McNamara, president of AFSCME Local 3328. "They are going very slow. We're hoping to get some support from the community to help understand our cause and move things along."
Roughly 120 probation officers and support staff have been working without a new contract since a three-year pact expired Nov. 30. Negotiations on a new deal are ongoing.
On Tuesday, more than 60 workers spent their lunch hour chanting and picketing in front of the main entrance to the courthouse building in Wheaton.
Guerin said there have been a dozen bargaining sessions so far. Two meetings are scheduled for August.
"We're continuing to meet regularly, and we're working diligently to make progress," he said.
He declined to talk about the sticking points in the talks.
Union officials, meanwhile, said the probation officers and support staff "reduce recidivism and make DuPage communities safer by managing 9,500 adult and juvenile probation cases a year, meeting with offenders, visiting them at home and work, conducting drug tests and connecting them with drug treatment programs."
They say those employees are "vastly underpaid" for their work.
Probation officers are required to have a bachelor's degree. Many who work for DuPage County have an advanced degree or other specialized credentials.
The starting salary for a probation officer is $41,659 a year. The top annual salary is $59,562.
However, McNamara said there are probation officers with more than 18 years of service who aren't at the top of the pay scale.
Nearly a third of the county's probation employees have to work a second job to make ends meet, according to a union survey.
McNamara said 44 employees have left in the last two years, many for other jobs with better-paid probation departments.
"Why are you letting the taxpayers of DuPage pay to train (probation officers) only for them to leave?" she said.
In addition to higher wages, the workers hope the new pact includes flexible scheduling.