Lake County court security workers set to get raises

  • A five-year labor contract with a union representing Lake County's court security officers, most of whom work at the court complex shown here in Waukegan, awaits approval from the county board.

    A five-year labor contract with a union representing Lake County's court security officers, most of whom work at the court complex shown here in Waukegan, awaits approval from the county board. Daily Herald File Photo, 2018

 
 
Updated 4/3/2020 9:02 PM

Security officers working in Lake County's courthouses are set to get pay raises under a long-overdue labor contract that could be approved next week.

The contract -- the first the employees have reached through collective bargaining -- is coming before the Lake County Board as members consider freezing their own pay and the pay of other countywide elected officials because of the financial struggles they anticipate will result from the coronavirus pandemic.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The county board's financial and administrative committee tentatively approved the pact Thursday. It calls for raises ranging from 2.25% to 3% each Dec. 1 -- the start of the county's fiscal year. The workers would get lump payments for prior earnings but would receive paychecks reflecting new pay rates moving forward, said John Light, Lake County's human resources director.

Court security officers are employees of the sheriff's office and are represented by Teamsters Local 700. The National Labor Relations Board certified their union in April 2017.

The deal on the table is between the union and the sheriff's office. That the pact took years to reach shouldn't be considered unusual, Light said.

"The first agreement normally takes longer to negotiate," he said.

Lake County has a main courthouse in Waukegan as well as branch courts in Mundelein, Round Lake Beach and Park City. A juvenile court operates near Vernon Hills, too.

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Covering 51 employees, the contract is retroactive to April 2017 and runs through November 2022. The annual pay for court security officers ranges from approximately $44,597 to $68,504, Light said.

The salary increases are commensurate with those awarded to "other comparable groups," Light said.

The labor contract will be on the agenda when the county board meets remotely at 9 a.m. Tuesday. People can observe the meeting at lakecounty.tv/ and on Comcast's Channel 18.

Financial committee member Steve Carlson is concerned the raises may set an unaffordable precedent as county officials begin figuring out how the economic havoc being caused by the coronavirus pandemic will affect the county's budget.

"I don't know what we're going to do," the Gurnee-area Republican said. "It depends on how long it goes and how bad it gets."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

County board members are considering freezing their own salaries and the salaries of the three countywide officials up for election this year because of the financial fallout from the pandemic.

The county board legally must establish salaries every other spring for its members and three countywide elected officials who are up for election that fall. They are the recorder of deeds, circuit court clerk and coroner.

If approved, the freezes would be in place for either the next two or next four years, depending on the term length of the affected offices.

The board could vote on the freezes in May.

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