The anatomy of an unnecessary strike – part two

On Wednesday, we covered how Kane County Chief Judge Susan Clancy Boles and Court Services Director Lisa Aust not only incited the unnecessary probation workers’ strike, but did their best to exacerbate it.

Though our dynamic duo should certainly shoulder the majority of the work stoppage blame, Teamsters 330’s approach towards settling it clearly demonstrated they had no clue about public-sector strikes.

Teamsters Logo

It started with the absurdly out-of-place giant inflatable animals. The giant rat made no sense because there were no scab workers. The whatever-it-was with the moneybag and giant pinky ring was even more silly because no one “owns” Kane County, there are no shareholders, nor is there a CEO.

I realize those rubber beasts are intended to draw attention to a strike and embarrass management into settling, but the truth is, the Chairman and most of the county board were more than content to watch the Chief Judge fall flat on her face.

Despite a number of attempts to enlighten them, the Teamsters simply could not grasp the concept that county government consists of satellite offices loosely bound by a statutory gravity. They never understood the Internal Control Statute forbade Chairman Chris Lauzen from directly intervening in the strike without the Chief Judge’s express written consent.

And that’s a good thing! Do we really want overbearing chairmen running roughshod over folks duly elected by county voters?

In fact, the only power the County Board actually does wield over the countywide elected officials is budgetary. Even then, if you recall the legendary legal battle between former Circuit Clerk Deb Seyllor and then Chairman Karen McConnaughay, the Board has no choice but to fund state mandated services.

Once the electeds’ budgets are set, with the exception of those mandated services, they can spend those taxpayer dollars any way they see fit! The only people they have to answer to at that point are the voters.

Of course, the Chairman could’ve publicly supported the strikers, as some strikers hoped, but he’s not nearly that politically naïve. There was no political gain, it could’ve been construed as interfering with labor negotiations, and, after the GPS monitoring system debacle, the only rope the Chairman was willing to provide Boles was just enough to hang herself.

The Teamsters also failed to engage in the very basic due diligence that would’ve revealed Chairman Lauzen’s regular 50 points election wins. He will be in that office as long as he wants to be in that office.

And the Teamsters never understood this enemy of my enemy is my friend dynamic. They couldn’t comprehend the Chairman’s consistent resolve on his flat tax levy campaign promise, either. Somebody really oughtta buy them a copy of Sun Tzu’s still relevant book.

Because they don’t understand collar county government, even the strikers embraced the notion that any unbudgeted funds should automatically go to them. But anybody who’s ever toiled for the government knows that’s not the way it works. There’s never enough cash to go around, so the various offices have to get in line for whatever funds there are.

As we’re suddenly seeing with Metra, funding operational expenses with reserves or capital funds is a lot like a retirement plan solely based on Power Ball winnings.

To wit, if any county department deserves a bigger bite of budgetary apple, it’s our beleaguered Public Defenders. As an aside, we’ll soon discuss how some of our 16th Circuit judges consider the PD’s office to be their own personal punching bag, and more.

But where Teamsters 330 really fell flat was in doing their damndest to lose the public relations battle the strikers had already won.

Until it became too personal, a plurality of the probation workers realized that voters would never understand their previous 3.7 percent step raises (I still don’t), and that insisting the work stoppage made citizens less safe wouldn’t win many friends or influence people.

They even managed to get sympathetic news coverage from the local papers and NBC and Fox News.

But while the international Teamsters communications expert appreciated that argument, it went right over the more local folks’ heads. They inexplicably sent picket-line-weary strikers door-to-door and took out full page newspaper ads threatening dire consequences if the rabble didn’t lean on Chairman Lauzen to cough up the cash.

The only thing that saved them from themselves here is Boles and Aust set the PR bar so much lower. Thankfully, the strike was settled before the Teamsters errant outreach efforts could come around to bite them in the butt.

In the end, the two sides settled on 2, 2.25, and 2.5 percent raises over the next three years which, when you consider other management concessions, is strikingly similar to Bole’s and Aust’s pre-strike final offer.

That’s the best evidence this strike never should’ve happened.

2 thoughts on “The anatomy of an unnecessary strike – part two

  1. There were no scab workers?? How do you figure? There were at least 16 scab workers from the start and then 4 more as the strike progressed.

  2. Dear Annoyed,

    First, there is a no anonymity requirement to comment on this blog. You don’t need to let everyone know who you are, but you do need to let me know or you will be banned. A simple email to jeffnward@comcast.net will do the trick.

    And don’t make me forego all the good feelings I have for the probation workers. Scabs aren’t people who cross the picket line, they’re non-union folks who either worked there to begin withk or took striking union members’ jobs.

    I stand by what I wrote!

    Jeff

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