County Worker Strike

By: Erica Hurtt
By: Erica Hurtt

For the first time in union history, Winnebago County workers are on strike. More than 300 union members walked off the job and onto the picket lines at 4:30 Thursday morning.

Rockford mother Julia Walsh says she's walking the picket line to provide a better life for her kids.

"It's very hard. My kids are young, I pay for day care. I'm a single mom, it's tough," Julia says.

A nurse aide at River Bluff Nursing Home, Walsh makes $7.25 an hour.

"I feed the patients. I make the beds. I wash the beds. Change the linen stations, everything," adds Julia.

Walsh and other striking workers say they'd rather be on the job and are worried about the patients, animals, or work they've left behind.

"It's hard work but we do it because we love the residents, but pay us a fair share so we can make ends meet. We have bills too," says Beverly Finley.

But for many of those walking the picket line, it's not just about a pay increase. They say they're protesting the way county leaders manage money.

They can pass all kinds of budget items and have these studies and what not and pay them x number of dollars. But they can't look out for employees. I have a problem with that," says Duwayne Morgan.

County leaders say they've offered all they can in tough economic times, but for struggling mothers like Julia Walsh, it's not enough. The union is asking for a two-year contract that includes a three percent raise now, another in April and then another three percent raise on worker's anniversaries starting in October 2004.

The county has agreed to just about all of that except the last three percent raise. Other stumbling blocks include health care and a step pay plan. To put this in perspective, the average county worker salary is just over $11.


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