Back-to-back delegations of unionized Illinois tollway workers asked board directors to intercede in securing fair wages Thursday.
Contracts between the agency and local Teamsters and AFSCME units have expired, leaving employees facing insecurity amid inflation, representatives said.
Teamsters Local 700 members are “expected to hop in the truck under the most dangerous conditions,” business agent Geoff Daniels said. The local includes mechanics, equipment operators, and laborers who respond to crashes as well as do snow plowing.
“They take pride in their jobs; they just want compensation that reflects what they do,” Daniels noted.
It was the second time American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees members showed up at a board meeting recently. In May, they told directors that negotiations had dragged on needlessly.
On Thursday, AFSCME’s James Adams described three-hour commutes to get to his job.
“Show to me the dedication I am showing to you. I don’t think that’s asking a lot,” he said.
After Adams’ wife gave birth to twins last year, he needed to take a second job at Walmart to make ends meet.
“My entire monthly income from the tollway barely covers my rent,” Adams said. “Myself and my family don’t want the world. I just daydream of giving it to them. I just want to make a living wage to comfortably raise my children. I want to be able to put them in a home that I know is safe.”
Tollway Executive Director Cassaundra Rouse said, “Our negotiating team is working very diligently to resolve and make sure we come to some collaborative agreement. We, too, want to get the agreements concluded and finalized and ratified before the board as soon as possible.”
“The issues that are being brought up, like compensation, are issues many are dealing with,” Rouse explained. “We are working very hard to make sure we can address the concerns that have been raised … and we will get to the finish line here.”
AFSCME’s contract with the tollway expired on Dec. 21, 2022. Local 700’s contract ended on Feb. 28, 2023.
Daniels warned directors that Cook County and Chicago are paying higher wages for similar work, and that’s luring away experienced staff.
“It leads to safety concerns, not just for Teamsters, but for the commuting public,” he added.