(ST. CHARLES, Ill.) – Faith leaders in the Chicago area held a prayer vigil outside the Kane County courthouse Tuesday in support of probation officers and youth counselors who are entering their fourth week of an unfair labor practice strike.
C.J. Hawking, director of Arise Chicago, an interfaith workers’ rights group, led the vigil.
“The workers had a compelling story to tell, and a lot of them have worked here for 10, 15 and 20 years,” Hawking said. “The job itself requires a lot of dedication. Religious leaders have always had an impact on strikes and lockouts, and these jobs are important. We’re talking about people whose lives are in trouble and people who want to see those lives turned around and experience a transformation.”
Several of the striking workers also spoke during the vigil.
“We are not looking for an increase in pay; we are looking to maintain what we previously had,” said Krista Larson, a probation officer.
“I have worked for Kane County for the past 8½ years. I started with the State’s Attorney’s Office and have been with Court Services for the past 5½ years. I love my job, but after the last 23 days of being on strike, it’s disheartening and disappointing to say the least,” said Isabel Ocon, a probation officer.
Terry Hancock, President of Teamsters Joint Council 25, confirmed that Teamster members throughout the area would stand behind the workers.
“Here we are on day 23 and court management is not being reasonable. They’re not bargaining in good faith. All we ask for is for a fair contract,” Hancock said.
Dominic Romanazzi, President of Local 330 which represents the workers, acknowledged the important services the workers provide to the community and the court system and ensured the workers of the union’s full support.
“You are critical and essential employees and you deserve to be treated as such,” Romanazzi said.
Romanazzi stated it was “shocking” that court management had allowed the strike to continue for so long, noting serious safety concerns due to the fact that thousands of criminal offenders of every category within the county have not been supervised and/or properly monitored by the probation officers on strike.
“The ongoing strike truly is a public safety issue. We hope and pray that another consequence will not be some type of tragedy caused by a criminal offender that was not properly monitored. We ask court management to end this strike now so that the safety concerns are eliminated,” Romanazzi said.
Teamsters Local 330, based in Elgin, Ill., is an affiliate of Teamsters Joint Council 25.