Chicago, IL – Workers at Cook County in Illinois have been on strike for two weeks as of today, July 8. Yesterday the workers ratcheted up the pressure on Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle with a large rally and sit-in at the president’s office.
Earlier in the day the workers had continued to picket at Stroger and Provident Hospitals, the County Jail, the Markham Courthouse, and multiple construction sites. Later they carpooled in large numbers to Daley Plaza where the Cook County Building is. Once there they started out by shutting down and holding an intersection for more than ten minutes then led a march which wrapped fully around all sides of the building. As this was occurring outside the building, a smaller group of strikers went into the building and up to the fifth floor where Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle’s office is located and delivered a letter of solidarity from unions and community supporters. Preckwinkle’s staff would not come out to talk to the crowd, so they decided to stay and occupy the area to demand that Preckwinkle settle their union contract.
This sit-in and rally came on the 13th day of around 2000 county workers being on strike demanding a fair contract like the one that the county agreed to with its AFSCME and National Nurses Organizing Committee (NNOC)-represented workers. With those unions, the county agreed to 8.5% in pay raises over four years and both unions also won improvements to their wage schedules. NNOC received three additional step increases for longevity of 2% each. The AFSCME members won an increase to the top step of the wage scale which caused an adjustment across the scale creating pay increases at all levels. The SEIU members say they deserve a contract similar to the ones that the county has already agreed to with its other unions. The Cook County SEIU members say their longevity increases have been diminishing throughout their wage scale. Additionally, their healthcare costs have been rising.
The striking union members held a mass call on Wednesday, July 7, out of which they made a new commitment to stand strong and continue the fight for the contract they deserve. They also began preparations to hold a large online civil disobedience training, signaling again that they are not likely to back down any time soon and area ready to do what it takes to win.
The Cook County strike is not the first strike in recent years that has taken place in the Chicago area in which working class union members are having to fight back against attacks from elected officials who are Democrats. Preckwinkle is a Democrat and is in charge of the union negotiations for Cook County. The Chicago Teachers Union has had to hold multiple strikes in recent years during negotiations with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and before that Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who are both members of the Democrat party. It has become increasingly clear that the only way that workers can get a fair shake in negotiations is if they make their voices heard loud and clear on the strike lines and in the streets, regardless which party is in office.
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