Picketers Say a Strike May be on its Way

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The William Buck trial could stand a chance of being postponed. That's if AFSCME Local 473 members can't reach an agreement on contract negotiations with Winnebago County. The union has been without a contract for more than three months.

Members say if a deal is not reached soon, their only option will be to strike and that would mean a stop to several county jobs from janitors to court clerks.

Despite the freezing temperatures, about 150 AFSCME Local 473 members walked the picket line protesting a freeze in their wages. "We feel it's unfair that we're just being set to the side," says County Worker Richard Parker.

The union has been in contract negotiations with Winnebago County for almost five months. The sticking point: A raise in insurance costs, but no raise in wages.
"The result is going to be that they're going to have to lay more people off to give the other employees a pay raise and that doesn't make a whole lot of sense," says Deputy Winnebago County State's Attorney Charles Prorock.

"That's fine. They can cut all they want. Start cutting administration jobs, quit cutting union jobs," responds AFSCME Local 473 President Thomas Van Den Eeden.

Even though both sides say an agreement may be just around the corner, union members say if the pace doesn't pick up, the county may leave them no other alternative than to strike. "I don't want to see the court system shut down, I don't want to see anything shut down. The employees don't want to go on strike but the county is pushing our hand and we might have to strike," says Van Den Eeden.

Parker says: "If they're just talking about taking and freezing our wages for so many years. I mean we're people to, we have to live."

The county is struggling with a deficit and they say the bottom line is they just don't have the money to pay for these wage increases.

Negotiations will continue into next week. A meeting is scheduled for Jan. 15.