Kane County court employees pledge to continue strike

Judge threatens job loss over work action

Beth Stutz (center) participates in a late April strike outside the Kane County Judicial Center in St. Charles with other probation officers and youth counselors of Teamsters Local 330 to protest lack of progress on wage negotiations and alleged unfair labor practice with the employer, the 16th Judicial Circuit.[]

ST. CHARLES – In the face of an ultimatum from Chief Judge Susan Clancy Boles that striking Kane County 16th Judicial Circuit probation officers and youth counselors return to work by May 15 or risk the loss of their jobs, the union employees of Teamsters Local 330 held a defiant rally May 14 outside the Kane County Judicial Center.

The 118 union members, who began the strike April 30, have been without a contract since Nov. 30, 2017.

"If you fail to return to work by May 15, 2018, we will commence hiring new employees so that we may continue to meet our statutory duties to the public," stated a May 10 letter from Clancy Boles addressed to court services employees.

The letter also stated: "We very much respect the right of workers to strike. The Sixteenth Judicial Circuit Court Services Department, however, has a right and in fact an obligation to fulfill our duties to the public by compliance with all statutes and taking all steps to minimize any safety risk to the public. I am therefore asking you to return to work by May 15, 2018."

In response to the letter, Robert Cervone, an attorney for the union, has written a May 12 letter to legal counsel for the county court.

Cervone stated the strike constitutes an unfair labor practice strike and is not simply over a collective bargaining agreement, going on to cite that federal and state authorities have held that an employer may not lawfully hire permanent replacements for workers who are engaged in an unfair labor practice strike.

"To the extent Chief Judge Clancy Boles is suggesting that she will hire permanent replacements for the striking employees, we believe she is legally prohibited from doing so," Cervone wrote. "As you know, Local 330 has filed three unfair labor practice charges against the Chief Judge with the Illinois Labor Relations Board, which are currently pending.

"We have alleged that Chief Judge Clancy Boles violated the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act by, among other things, failing to implement wage step increases after expiration of the collective bargaining agreement and by failing to provide information regarding health insurance coverage for striking employees," Cervone wrote.

"Local 330 will continue the strike, and will continue to exert all lawful pressure possible, for as long as it takes to secure the reinstatement of all striking workers under terms acceptable to them," Cervone stated.

Teamsters Union Local 330 President Dominic Romanazzi said by phone May 16 that earlier in the day he emailed Clancy Boles and court counsel after having received no communication from the county.

He said he hopes the county will contact the union and agree to resume negotiations.

"[We] are willing, ready and able to sit down and get back to the bargaining table in an effort to resolve the ongoing strike," he said. "I'm hopeful we will agree to commence negotiations."

The union is willing to meet any time, any place, Romanazzi said.

Clancy Boles could not be reached for comment.