VIDEO: Cook County Employees Join One Day Strike to Demand Pandemic Pay

About 1,600 of Illinois’ Cook County employees joined a strike Tuesday amid a dispute regarding pandemic pay and their working conditions.

“The Cook County Health workers, Sheriff’s office civilian employees, and Cook County Clerk’s office workers represented by SEIU Local 73 walked off the job at 6 a.m., accusing the county of walking out on negotiations,” CBS Chicago reported.

In a statement, SEIU Local 73 president Dian Palmer said the union’s members have “put their lives on the line to keep Cook County functioning.”

As ABC 7 reported:

The workers are demanding pandemic pay for essential frontline workers – with a $5 per hour raise for those in COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] units or taking care of coronavirus patients – and stipulations for PPE and social distancing, including allowing employees to work remotely when possible.

The union also wants 48 workers who lost their jobs when the Recorder of Deeds office was merged with the County Clerk’s office to be given jobs as contact tracers.

“We are no longer in the business of taking what you give us, we are taking what we want,” said Jeffery Howard, the union’s executive vice president.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s press secretary, Nick Mathiowdis, said the agency respects employees’ bargaining rights but is “deeply disappointed that the union would ask some of its members to strike during a global pandemic.”

Mathiowdis added that the county used federal coronavirus stimulus funds to give county workers pandemic pay, including members of the union.

“Other unions during this time have negotiated hazard pay agreements with the County and the employees have received and/or soon will receive that hazard pay,” the secretary continued.

“Contingency plans are in place to ensure services are not disrupted during the one-day strike,” Mathiowdis noted.

The union shared photos and video of some of the strikers on its Twitter page Tuesday:

“The union claims Cook County has brought in strikebreakers from high-risk COVID-19 states endangering workers’ and patients’ lives,” the ABC 7 article concluded.

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