The temperature wasn’t the only thing heating up Thursday morning.
Dozens of union members who work for Will County government marched, sweated and chanted during informational picketing in front of the county office building, 302 N. Chicago St. in Joliet.
And some got hotter under the collar when a county official threatened to have their cars towed from the county building lot, before cooler heads prevailed.
The picketing was timed to coincide with the monthly county board meeting, which began at 9:30 a.m.
Union members whose contracts expired late last year don’t like the county’s offer for new contracts, said Dave Delrose, president of the biggest county workers’ union — the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1028. AFSCME covers 1,260 county employees.
The informational picketing was designed to show board members and county Executive Larry Walsh that the union is united in its quest for a new contract, Delrose said.
“We’re not going to accept any kind of contract where our members are going to have to see less in their take-home pay than they do right now,” he said. “That’s not fair and it’s not justified.”
Local 1028 members have given their leaders the go-ahead to call for a strike vote if necessary. Several other unions — including those for sheriff’s deputies and assistant state’s attorneys — also are negotiating new contracts.
Local 1028’s negotiations are scheduled to resume with a federal mediator at 9 a.m. Friday.
“We’re just hoping we can get some significant movement toward getting this done,” Delrose said.
During the county board meeting, board Speaker Herb Brooks Jr. (D-Joliet) addressed the labor negotiations.
“I want our Will County employees to know that we are concerned about them,” Brooks said. “... We’re certainly here ... to help you and help negotiate what we need to do.”
The full board met in a closed session after the regular board meeting to discuss the contracts.
Walsh said negotiations are getting to a critical point. Health insurance is a big issue, and the county is trying to be fair and equitable to employees while also keeping taxpayers in mind, he said.
“When it gets down to the final inches that we have to move in negotiations, it gets very difficult,” Walsh said. “I think we are close.”
Local 1028 member Chris Wilhelmi said county maintenance director Mike Miglorini threatened to have Wilhelmi’s car towed from the county building lot on Walsh’s orders.
“I informed him I’m a member of AFSCME and I’m going to be attending a public meeting, and I’m parking in a public parking lot legally,” Wilhelmi said.
Walsh said he only was encouraging the picketers to park elsewhere to make room for county employees and board members who would be arriving later in the morning.
“The parking lot is only so big,” he said.
The county’s private towing company was called, but no cars were towed, Miglorini said.