Cook County Bargaining Continues

In the first two weeks of January, we have had four bargaining sessions with the County, with nine more sessions scheduled through February.

On Jan. 6, we held our bargaining session for Cook County Health Service & Maintenance workers. Unlike past sessions, management was actually willing to come to the table for a civil discussion. We provided our comprehensive proposal for the Service & Maintenance Unit including:

  • Pandemic pay and $5/hour for working in COVID units
  • Process for filling vacancies before outside hires
  • Increase tuition reimbursement to $40,000
  • $2.75/hr for weekend and shift differential
  • $2/hr floating premium

On Jan. 8, we held our bargaining session for the Clerk’s Office. We reached tentative agreements on:

  • Use of comp time in one-hour increments
  • Grievance hearings done remotely using Zoom or similar platform

The County has not responded to the issue of pandemic pay.

The bargaining team made it clear there are substantial concerns about the health and safety of Vital Records, Taxes, Recording Department, and Office of Elections workers due to the hazardous working conditions. Management stated that they are looking into it and deeply concerned as well.

On Jan. 11, we held our bargaining session for the Sheriff’s Office. The County presented nine items where they felt we could reach a tentative agreement. We will review and discuss those items prior to the next bargaining session.

We reached agreement on conducting the first shift bid in seven years in the Records Department which should occur in the coming couple of weeks.

One of the main issues the bargaining team raised was the culture of bullying and harassment that continues between officers and civilian staff. Management made it clear that bullying is not tolerated and any incidents should be reported with as much detail as possible (e.g. Date, time, names of those involved, details of incident, etc.)

We also had productive discussion around equal pay for equal work for CRWs, establishing minimum increases for upgrades and promotions, as well as rewarding longevity. While there was conceptual agreement in these discussions, there is still work to be done to get to formal agreements that address some of these longstanding problems.

On Jan. 12, we held our first bargaining session for Cook County Health Healthcare Professionals. We made some progress in negotiations although time ran out and (a) management didn’t get to finish walking us through their response (and they haven’t sent it to us yet) and (b) we didn’t get to present our compensation proposal as planned.

  • Progress: The County agreed to language we proposed on transfers and promotions so bargaining unit employees were given priority to fill positions from the unit to the department; to the bargaining unit; to other SEIU members; and then lastly outside applicants. The County also agreed to add Juneteenth Day as a paid holiday (they rejected the same proposal last week with service and maintenance). There were other modest changes that were responsive to our proposals.
  • Continued Discussion: The County is willing to engage on proposals related to definition of seniority, layoffs, CRNAs, Rehab Therapy Department, Social Workers, 10- and 12- hour shifts. This isn’t a definitive list but presents some of the main openings for discussion which is a positive development.
  • Power and Control: The County is very resistant to any changes to the labor-management relationship that strengthens the role of the Union and voice of workers (and they perceive it as a loss of power and control for them). This includes Labor-Management meetings, erosion of bargaining unit, the right to organize, voice authorization of dues, a 30-day limit to issue discipline and an 18-month cap on the lifespan of a suspension in someone’s file, shift rotation, floating, as well as the proposals related to criteria and process to resolve upgrades in the future. We will continue to press forward on all of these issues since the County’s arguments never answer the question about how it makes them a better or worse employer or a better or worse provider of care – which are the questions they need to be forced to answer.
  • Economic Issues: They reserved on the economics that are on the table (and we didn’t present the rest of our package).

Overall this session was positive with forward progress on several issues. We have discovered new openings and gained a better understanding of battlelines the County has drawn.

We have the following upcoming bargaining dates:

  • Jan 21 CCH Technicians
  • Jan 22 CCH Service and Maintenance
  • Feb 1 Offices Under the President
  • Feb 3 Sheriff’s Office
  • Feb 9 CCH Professionals
  • Feb 16 Sheriff’s Office
  • Feb 17 CCH Technicians
  • Feb 18 CCH Service and Maintenance
  • Feb 24 Offices Under the President