Madison County workers back on the job

Steve Gonzalez Oct. 25, 2005, 7:15am

The blare of honking horns on North Main Street in Edwardsville simmered to silence Tuesday as Madison County workers ended a near two-week strike, and returned to work.

Inside the courthouse and administration building, union employees expressed relief to be back to work. But emotions were still raw.

"The county was very callous, and took no regard for the health of women and children," said bailiff Rod Taylor.

Chief Deputy Circuit Clerk Judy Nelson said she was proud of how well management held down the fort during the strike.

"The supervisors made a heroic effort while they were on strike," said Nelson. "They worked day and night, seven days a week taking care of business, I am very proud of them all."

Nelson said there were 11 people handling the work of 83.

She added that returning clerks were "getting down to business" and expect to be caught up within three weeks. There is still "a lot" of data entry and filing that needs to be done, Nelson said.

Also, now that the strike is over, UPS, FedEx and DHL have started to deliver to the courthouse again as drivers have refused to cross the picket line.

Another welcome sign of renewed life at the courthouse were vendors replenishing snack and soda machines.

The Circuit Clerk's office is still operating under revised hours under an order from the chief judge. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. until further notice.

Deadlock Broken

On Monday night the County Board voted 25-1 and the union voted 438-5 in favor of a four-year contract that gives workers a 3 percent pay increase for the next three years.

Workers will receive a lump sum payment of 3 percent times their base salary for the 11 months they've worked without a contract, since Dec. 1, 2004.

Healthcare coverage for workers' families was one of the greatest points of contention in the 13-day strike by union workers represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 799.

"This contract is a victory for all of our members, a victory for every man and woman in this working for this county for getting affordable health care," said Scott Davis, union president.

"The contract is historical, it is the first time in Madison County history that employees have the option for affordable healthcare."

The contract provides for between $174 and $453 toward family coverage, depending on the number of dependents. A special health care coverage fund will be established for union employees.

But employees who opt for dependent coverage will receive four fewer sick days during the year.

Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan said the plan is fiscally responsible and fair to workers.

Davis said union members would not have received the contract they did had they not struck.

"This could have happened a long time ago if they (the county board)would have listened to and respected our concerns, instead of ignoring them," he said. "Good politicians, do not always make good leaders.

"They showed their arrogance, they never dreamed the union was as
strong as we are, and they did not care about affordable heatlh care."

Edwardsville divorce attorney David Fahrenkamp, who supported strikers, was glad to see it come to an end.

" I am just glad that both sides could come to an agreement and get the situation resolved," he said.

Circuit Judge George Moran also was happy for the resolution.

"I am very pleased that everybody is back to work and it was
worked out."

Moran's bailiff, Bob Page said, he was "very happy to be back at work."

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