A showdown between Madison County union employees and an elected board that controls its wages and benefits is coming to a head on Main Street in Edwardsville.
And if the 447 union workers--who have gone without a contract for nearly a year--file a mandatory five-day notice to strike, business as usual in Madison County will most likely come to a grinding halt.
Represented by American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 799, employees in the Circuit Clerk's office, probation officers, bailiffs and nurses in the county Health Department are standing firm in their demands for more pay and better benefits. Madison County Sheriff's Department employees are not represented by the union, but are threatening to strike.
Union president Scott Davis is not optimistic that an agreement will be reached in time to avert a strike.
"They are bullying us, not the other way around," Davis said. "All I am concerned about is my members."
Transactions for lawyers, real estate buyers and sellers--even nuptials--would be severely affected, according to Davis.
"The county will have very little ability to do business as normal," he said.
On the other hand, Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan, is confident that a settlement will be reached as the sides continue to negotiate.
"I'd like to get this resolved for the employees of Madison County and the taxpayers," said Dunstan who likens the dispute to a "family squabble."
"Hopefully, we'll get it worked out," he said.
"I've always said we've got the best employees in the state of Illinois.
"I don't take this personally."
Madison County Chief Deputy Clerk Judy Nelson said even if a strike happens, the courthouse would stay open for business.
"The clerk's office, by state statute, must be open when the court is in session," she said. "Even if we have a blizzard or tornado, the Chief Judge is the only one who can close the courts."
Management employees would oversee courthouse operations, she said.