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Cook County, one union reach tentative pact
'The government is running,' county says

Thursday, June 22, 2006
Daily Southtown
by Jonathan Lipman

Cook County, facing an impending one-day strike by its nurses, reached an agreement with one of it larger employee unions after a 40-hour negotiating session.
No details were released Wednesday about the tentative deal with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which covers about 6,000 of the county's 25,000 employees. Union and county spokesmen said details must be given to union members and the county board first.
Workers will begin voting on the agreement next week, union spokesman Anders Lindall said.
County spokeswoman Chinta Strausberg cast the settlement as proof the county was still functioning despite the months-long absence of board President John Stroger, who has not been seen publicly since his stroke March 14.
"I keep telling you guys the government is running," Strausberg said. "We're doing the people's business."
AFSCME members include health care workers, public defenders and clerical workers. Like other county employees, they have been without a contract since November 2004.
The AFSCME contract is the first major contract to be settled since and it will likely set the terms for other union deals. Lindall said negotiations went "around the clock" until the deal was settled.
The National Nurses Organizing Committee, which represents 1,800 nurses at Stroger Hospital and other county health facilities, has a one-day walkout set for June 30 unless negotiations reach a breakthrough. Nurses are pressing for better staffing levels and cheaper health care.
Cook County commissioners have said they are watching all union negotiations closely. The board is already facing a budget gap of at least $163 million next year and any contracts that include large pay increases would make that problem worse.



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