Striking workers drawing attention

Steve Gonzalez Oct. 12, 2005, 12:13pm

Madison County employee Jim Corey of Edwardsville waves at one of the many "honking" cars supporting strikers. He works for the assessor's office.

County Clerk employees Odette Henschen of Glen Carbon (left) and Sheryl Hencke of Edwardsville picket Wednesday.

County employees picket in front of the court house and wave at traffic that passes by as they start their strike.

County employees walk around the courthouse as the strike begins.

The long anticipated strike by 447 American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 799 union members started today as workers and county officials failed to reach an agreement.

Union workers--including secretaries, deputy circuit clerks, probation officers, court bailiffs, nurses and detention and maintenance workers--have been without a contract since December.

While union members picketed outside the courthouse, is was business as usual in the courthouse--except for the fact that staffing was drastically reduced. Managers and other non-union members filled-in for striking workers.

Talks are not scheduled again until 1 p.m. Friday between the union and the county.

"While county officials last month agreed to pay 70 percent of the cost of family coverage for its sheriff’s deputies, it has refused to do so for the clerks, secretaries, nurses, cooks and other frontline workers represented by AFMSCE," according to a statement issued Monday by the union.

"Because the deputies are mostly men, while the county workers are mostly women, the unequal treatment has exposed the County Board to charges of gender discrimination."

Currently, the county does not contribute anything for dependant care.

Madison County Chief Judge Edward Ferguson has closed the Alton, Granite City and Collinsville satellite courts until he orders them open again. He has also cancelled all jury trials.

This morning, DUI and probation revocation hearings were held along with some family and probate cases.

The county board is expected to vote on the deputies' contract tonight.

Throughout the day, passersby have showed a remarkable amount of support for employees on strike by honking horns, yelling and waving support.

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