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Cook County strike reaches day 11

By Joe Iosbaker |
July 5, 2021
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Members of CAARPR with Ericka White, a strike leader (third from left).
Members of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression with Ericka White, a strike leader (third from left). The signs express CAARPR support for the Local 73 strikers. (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Chicago, IL - Hundreds of workers clad in purple rallied in 90-degree heat in front of Provident Hospital on Chicago’s South Side today, July 5. According to Ericka White, a county employee in the business office and an elected member of the bargaining committee for Local 73, “Our members are strong and we’re going to win our demands.”

The strike of 2500 employees of Cook County Health, County Jail, and the county corporate offices continues because of this strength. A popular chant heard for two hours was, “One day longer, one day stronger!”

Earlier last week, management settled with three other unions: National Nurses United (who had staged a one day strike on Thursday, June 24), the Teamsters, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. On June 28, a “best and final offer” was made to Local 73, but management hid that the other agreements included additional pay raises in anniversary steps.

Local 73 members include the county employees with the lowest pay grades, and the negotiators for County Board President Toni Preckwinkle are threatening to make worse the pay disparity between SEIU and the other workers.

A large number of Local 73 members were prevented from striking by a court injunction. Those workers report to the strikers that the county's plan to bring in strikebreakers failed because the agency workers are refusing to do the work and complaining about the hours. Earlier this holiday weekend, Larry Alcoff, lead negotiator for SEIU, said, “Management came to the table on Friday not to settle the contract, but to get you back to work, because they can’t run this hospital without you!”

Today, Alcoff reported that management had put more on the table than in their ‘final offer,’ but the two sides are still separated by a dollar amount so small, it amounts to one-twentieth of 1% of county’s $7 billion budget, not including the $1 billion county is receiving from the federal American Rescue Plan. The difference in the two sides amounts to $25 per worker per year.

“This is not an economic decision. This is a political decision by management,” Alcoff added. “We will give them 24 hours to get this deal done. If it’s not finished, tomorrow we will march the entire labor movement, and our elected officials, into Hyde Park [Cook County President Preckwinkle’s neighborhood] to show we’re not taking it anymore!”