CHICAGO – Eight television trucks were lined up outside of the Cook County City Hall in Chicago’s Loop May 29 at 11:15 a.m. Fifteen minutes later, county workers were filling the sidewalks as they marched around the block-square building. For two hours the vigorous pickets, members of several local unions affiliated to District Council 31 of the State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) sang songs, the most heartfelt being the now familiar, “Everywhere we go/People want to know/Who we are/So we tell them/We are the unions/Mighty, mighty unions.”

This year 12 AFSCME locals are involved in negotiations with the county, with settlement stalled by county demands for give-backs. The county board wants to dilute health benefits and initiate big co-pays that especially attack young workers with children. They also offered tiny cost-of-living increases for the next three years. The union says the net result would be lower income for their members.

Jail employees, court clerks and hospital workers carried signs reminding the public that the 14 commissioners voted themselves substantial raises – 48 percent for President John Stroger, 39 percent for the others.

“We wanted them to know who we were,” said Shelby Richardson, a member of the local representing court clerks. “We didn’t want anyone to miss our determination to win a decent contract.

Intention-to-strike cards, authorizing the union leadership to call a strike, have been signed by an overwhelming majority of the local’s membership.

“Stay tuned,” Richardson said, “The AFL-CIO affiliates in Cook County will remember in November.”

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org

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