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Union employees claim discrimination in recorder's office

WOODSTOCK – McHenry County government’s often-contentious relationship with its public-sector unions just got a bit more acrimonious with one awaiting certification.

Many employees of the McHenry County Recorder’s Office who have signed cards to unionize with Service Employees International Union Local 73 complained to the County Board on Tuesday that they are being illegally singled out with arbitrary rules and enforcement.

Several speakers alleged that workers who support joining SEIU are publicly humiliated for errors, told not to talk in the office and are not allowed to eat or drink at their stations, while workers not joining the union are under no such restrictions.

At least 30 employees, family members and supporters attended the meeting.

“Since we began working to win our union, all union supporters have been targeted or treated differently by our management,” employee Sally Foat told board members.

Recorder Phyllis Walters, county government’s longest serving elected official, called the allegations “absolutely unfounded.”

Walters, a Republican, was elected recorder in 1984 and ran unopposed for re-election last year. The recorder’s office is tasked with recording, maintaining and retrieving county real estate records and plats, which number more than 3.1 million.

“We’re running the same as we always have – run the office with honesty and fairness. Employees are all treated the same,” Walters said.

The office employs 32 full-time workers. State law allows government workers to unionize without an election if a majority fill out authorization forms, a process known as card check.

But McHenry County is challenging the creation of the unit with the Illinois Labor Relations Board, alleging that union supporters do not have the 50 percent-plus-one majority required, county Human Resources Director Robert Ivetic said.

Wayne Lindwall, spokesman for SEIU Local 73, said the union has enough interested employees for certification. The union also has filed a complaint with the labor board regarding the allegations of unfair treatment.

Lindwall called the allegations raised by the employees “shocking,” and said that it is reminiscent of the protracted fights to get first contracts for units representing Animal Control and the county’s deputy coroners.

But Lindwall called employees’ appearance at Tuesday’s meeting an olive branch of sorts to encourage county officials to work constructively for a first contract. He pointed to the first contract approved in August for nonmanagerial staff of Valley Hi Nursing Home.

“You would think by now that the county wouldn’t need to fight us tooth and nail on everything,” Lindwall said.
SEIU Local 73 now also represents Valley Hi’s nursing staff. Both sides meet Oct. 29 to work toward a first contract, Ivetic said.

There are 10 bargaining units representing various county employees totaling more than 40 percent of county government’s workforce, not counting the recorder’s office.

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