Mercer County grapples with employee problems

Cathy Decker/Staff reporter
A large inflated rat joined the protest outside the Mercer County Courthouse on Tuesday.

An overflow audience joined the Mercer County Board of Supervisors at Tuesday's Aug. 4, 2009 7 p.m. meeting.

There were a number of issues on the minds of those gathered including nursing home affiliation and union contracts.

Starting at around 5 p.m. that day picketers began setting up a picket line at the courthouse, protesting unfair labor practices. Joining the group from IUOE 150 at around 5:15 p.m. were county employees grabbing signs that said "Mercer County Employees deserve a fair contract." A blown up rat later joined the scene.

IUOE Local 150 representative Troy Russell addressed the board with county employee concerns. The union represents around 70 county employees working in clerical, transportation and law enforcement."We've negotiated for two years. It's unheard of to have no contract," said Russell. He pointed to the union insurance as one example of the negotiations that is stuck. "Our insurance is cheaper and has better coverage. It would save the county money," he said.

He pointed out that since 2005 more than $70,000 in legal fees has accumulated. "Today we filed three unfair labor practices suits," he said. "We're looking for backing and your answer has been 'No, No, No, on the insurance. We've submitted six different sets of numbers. This thing has be dragging out too long."

A large number of the audience began clapping when Russell finished his statement.

Also involving some controversy was a statement made by Dawn McCullough, who was representing Mercer County Nursing Home employees. "We are opposed to any affiliation with Genesis," said McCulllough. She pointed out that Mercer County has had a stand alone facility for 155 years. "We have become a family," she said.

She handed in a petition with 250 signatures making it known that they want no affiliation with Genesis.

Mary Flint also spoke to the board as a family member of one of the residents. She called the facility a five star facility. "The quality and number of staff needs to remain," she said. "It has a clean bright atmosphere. It is a great nursing home with a great reputation."

She asked the board to carefully consider its options and any changes in ownership.

Board member Bob Vickrey made a motion to appoint Roger D. Brannan of Rock Island as the nursing home's new administrator, which was approved by the board.

For more on this story, see the Aug. 12, issue of The Times Record.

An overflow crowd attended the Mercer County Board meeting on Tuesday night, Aug. 4, 2009.