I think we can all relax now that the budget passed. Thanks to all the members and their phone calls to their commissioners, the Cook Count Board voted 9-8 to increase the sales tax by 1% and to also give the Bureau of Health Services to an independent board for management for the next three years. The vote on the actual budget was 10-7. The compromise which led to the deal on the final day was months in the making and appears to have been spearheaded by former public defender and commissioner Larry Suffredin. Commissioner Suffredin advocated for an independent body to manage the hospital system but many felt that was an issue that could be put off into the future. His insistence on this change and the President’s need for another vote for the tax increase is what led to the compromise. Now we have revenue and reform.
As the Local did for members with last names from A-M in September of 2007, it will host a two hour cocktail reception following the second day of the mandatory MCLE at McCormick Place for members with last names N-Z.
All members at the seminar will receive two drink tickets which can be redeemed for the drink of their choice: beer, wine, pop , water and mixed drinks. The bartenders will also accept cash if you run out of tickets.
* Room E450 (one floor up from where the main seminar room.)
* March 7, 2008 5pm-7pm
Please drink responsibly.
The local has uploaded a new seniority list that it received from Council 31 in Springfield last month. Please take a look at it. If you believe there is an error, please send an explanatory memo to Nik-ki Whitingham, who is now the personnel director, and don’t forget to forward a copy to the union.
The following attorneys recently began employment with our office as assistant public defenders. Each has signed a card to become a full member of the union. Please give them a warm welcome. They are:
CHRISTOPHER J. NOLAN
JENNY E.M. NILSSON
WALTER JOSEPH PAZERA
JENNIFER LYN VAUGHN
JONATHAN SINGH BEDI
Here is the latest talk on the county budget as reported in the Tribune.
There is still no clear answer on whether revenue increases or budget cuts will win out. So we continue to press the Public Defender message with elected officials and others. The Union has spoken with key County Commissioners and others in an attempt to get our message out that any further cuts to this Office cannot be absorbed.
Council 31 is aware that Unicare is telling HMO members that they have to use non-Rush Hospital doctors because of a failure to reach a service agreement with Rush Hospital. For your information, Unicare and Rush have a February 15th deadline for reaching an agreement, so this may still occur. If this does not occur, past practice is to allow Unicare HMO members to migrate to other HMOs or PPOs. Stay tuned for more information.
Tired of your current job site? If you are a grade 2 attorney, you should know that the following postings went up on 1/15/08 and will expire on 2/4/08. Here are the locations looking for 2s and the number of openings at each location:
1st Muni 5
And it appears that the office is hiring again! Welcome back Genevieve O’Toole and welcome to Chris Nolan, our most recent hire and the first in over a year.
IT MAY be a new year according to the calendar, but the same old battling over the budget is still keeping the Cook County board tied up in knots. And it’s no joking matter, as the wrangling is now threatening the jobs and livelihoods of AFSCME members.
Letters sent to the union by the office of board president Todd Stroger this week raised the possibility of an unspecified number of layoffs if commissioners do not approve new revenue necessary to balance the budget. Unfortunately, the Stroger letters inaccurately tried to place blame for the budget stalemate on commissioners who in fact have expressed their support for needed revenues, among them Larry Suffredin and Roberto Maldonado.
AFSCME continues to support these revenues as part of a larger agreement to reform county health services under independent leadership. “Cook County government needs revenue and reform,” AFSCME director Henry Bayer said. “You can’t have one without the other, and President Stroger should be focused on reaching consensus rather than making threats.”
You may have noticed recently that your prescriptions copays have gone up. In the contract that we ratified in June of 2006, we negotiated a modest increase in our prescription drug benefit which went into effect on 12/1/07. The new plan now calls for copays of $7, $15, and $25 for generic, formulary and non-formulary drugs, respectively. While it is a jump from the $5 and $10 we were paying, the new plan is still more favorable than other public and private employee prescription plans.
Wage Increases and Step Increases
Our wages increased 1% on 12/1/04, 1% on 12/1/05, 2% on 6/1/06, 1.5% on 12/1/06, and 2.5% on 6/1/07. The 2% increase scheduled for the first full pay period after 12/1/07 however, has not appeared on our checks which we received on 12/28/07. Needless to say, this is not the first time the County has frozen our wages while trying to pass the next fiscal year’s budget resolution. In previous years, we filed grievances which were withdrawn when the budget was passed and retroactive payments were made to the membership. Last year, Council 31, our exclusive bargaining agent, decided not to withdraw the grievance and took it to arbitration. The result of the arbitration decision last year was that we won by convincing the arbitrator that the County was engaging in an unfair labor practice. While we asked for 6% interest, the arbitrator ruled that the County didn’t really know any better so he wouldn’t award interest. Now, even with that precedent, the County continues to engage in this most unfair of labor practices. This time we will advocate, once again, for interest on our retro checks–and hopefully, we will get it.
And finally, we are scheduled to get a wage increase of 2.75% on 6/1/08. In addition, we negotiated an extra 1% to our to our pay grid to offset the increase in health care contributions that are scheduled to take effect the same day as our pay increase. This extra 1% is currently the topic of another arbitration that has not yet been scheduled. We are anticipating that arbitration will be resolved in our favor well before the pay increase is scheduled to go into effect.
The local has been notified that as of 1/1/08, the amount taken form our paycheck of AFSCME union dues will increase. The increase in membership dues is imposed pursuant to the International Constitution, Article IX, Section 6. The increase is not large enough to require a vote of the general membership but the increase may, nevertheless, be noticed by some of you.
Currently, members pay roughly $550 per year. (Refer to your deductions on your pay stub and multiply by 26 pay periods). An increase of $1.29 per pay period will be added to the previous deduction amount ($21.11) so the total will now be $22.40 per pay period. Hence, your union dues for 2008 will be approximately $582.
Our sole fair share member will see his dues go to $18.14 per pay period.