11/19/2013 1:24:00 PM Will Co. employees strike over 14.5% raise
Benjamin Yount Illinois Watchdog
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Taxpayers in Will County have offered its public employees a hefty pay raise and are willing to pick up 90 percent of the cost for their health insurance, but that’s not good enough for members of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 1028.
Its 1,300 members went on strike Monday, decrying a “paltry” offer from the county that would have given workers a 14.5 percent pay hike and have taxpayers pay for the overwhelming majority of their health insurance costs.
“That gives an indication of just how out of touch government workers are,” Steve Stanek, a research fellow at the Heartland Institute, told Illinois Watchdog. “I think they’ve become more radicalized and more out of touch as they have become more unionized.”
Stanek is quick to point to numbers that show labor unions are growing only in the public sector.
“You can go to the Bureau of Labor Statistics … and you will see the government sector is unionized at, I think, six times the rate as the private sector.”
The labor stats show 35 percent of government workers are in a union, compared to just 6 percent of private-sector workers.
The same report shows that unionized public sector employees are paid 27 percent more than private-sector workers.
But AFSCME in Will County cries poor.
“The average (employee) salary is $35,000. (And) 40 percent make less than $30,000,” Anders Lindall, a spokesman for ASCME told Illinois Watchdog in an email. “Will County employees are paid less than public-service workers in surrounding counties.”
Lindall also said the union is upset with proposed health insurance costs, contending union members are being asked to “pay double their current premiums.”
But even paying twice what they are now would be a bargain.
“County employees pay one percent of their salaries for single coverage and two percent for family coverage,” a press release from Will County Executive Larry Walsh states. “The new plan calls for employees to cover an aggregate of 10 percent of the cost of their insurance.”
That means taxpayers still would guarantee 90 percent of the health insurance costs for workers.
Walsh’s office also notes that the county has offered 14.5 percent pay raises, both from a traditional wage increase and the union’s step increase that pays unionized workers more for being on the job longer.
But AFSCME Local 1028 rejected those offers, saying they are not “fair.”
“Will County employees want what all working people want: Fair pay and affordable health care,” Lindall said.
Stanek, from the Heartland Institute, isn’t buying that.
‘“When you finally do get elected officials to stand up to the government workers, you have a lot of people who think, wrongly, that their lives depend on these government workers,” Stanek said, adding that no one seems to be thinking about what is fair for the taxpayers.