AURORA – Standing in a bright meeting room at IBEW Local 461 in Aurora, Greg Elsbree formally announced his candidacy for Kane County Board chairman June 24 before a small group of 25.
A Teamster for 35 years and currently the Secretary Treasurer of Teamsters Local 179, Elsbree said he is an experienced negotiator for union contracts and with developers, who would bring respect for workers back to Kane County.
“You know me as a family man, a member of St. David’s Episcopal Church, active Aurora community member and a Teamster,” Elsbree said, detailing his other roles as Fox Valley Building Trades vice president and treasurer of Three Rivers Construction Alliance.
“As a Teamster, I spent 20 years driving a truck, 10 years as a (union) officer,” Elsbree said. “In each one of these roles, I have always put working families first. I am re-introducing myself as a candidate for Kane County Board chairperson. My commitment to working families led to this decision.”
Elsbree, an Aurora resident, said he decided to run for county board chairman because of current County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen.
“This war on workers and families must end,” Elsbree said. “This divisiveness among the chairman and the board must end. This bullying by the county board chairman must end. I’m ready to take up the challenge.”
Lauzen, Elsbree said, “demonstrated a lack of leadership and empathy toward county employees during a 43-day strike by Teamsters Local 330.”
Elsbree said the 116 probation officers and youth counselors who struck last year have bachelor’s degrees and took second part-time jobs to make ends meet.
“I stood with those workers while they were picketing right across the street,” Elsbree said. “I witnessed a youth counselor torn between standing up for her family by striking the county or crossing the picket line and counseling her client. … She was torn between doing her job and her duty, and trying to support her family. Nobody should have that added burden on their shoulders.”
Elsbree said 30% of the striking youth counselors left for other jobs, as they were unsure about their future in Kane County.
“Instead of respecting the professionalism of these county employees, I watched board chair Ebeneezer Scrooge – I mean Chris Lauzen – cry broke and point fingers. He failed to see an equitable resolution during contract negotiations,” Elsbree said.
Elsbree recounted other examples of what he said showed Lauzen’s disrespect for the county’s workers.
Lauzen wanted a different insurance carrier, whose lower premiums would save the county $1 million, but with the same coverage, Elsbree said.
“Just think about that,” Elsbree said. “Somebody’s going to save you $1 million on insurance but your coverage won’t change. … The county board voted down this insurance provider change.”
Elsbree said Lauzen also tried to rescind union contracts that had already been approved by the county board and ratified by union members.
Lauzen delayed signing the contracts for nearly six months, Elsbree said, demonstrating his lack of empathy for the workers, and lack of ability to fulfill basic county board functions.
“This was the last straw for me,” Elsbree said. “Great leaders step into disagreements in a straightforward manner instead of avoiding difficult conversations. Great leaders respectfully engage all parties in conflict instead of trying to manipulate a situation. Great leaders unite people, not divide them.”
Elsbree said his experience working with developers and general contractors, along with federal and state legislators to get projects up and running has prepared him to lead the county.
“My passion for standing up for working families has helped me lead workers through and resolve many conflicts with contractors,” Elsbree said. “Whether it be leading negotiations to keep jobs, fighting for a living wage, or standing next to workers on a picket line in support of health care, I will stand up for working families in Kane County.”
He said his goal is to make Kane County an “economic engine that will support the services needed to live a safe and prosperous life in Kane County.”
“I will respect all county employees by having empathy for their concerns and invest in their hard work with fair compensation and a voice at the table,” Elsbree said. “I will respect all county citizens by empowering their elected officials and county department heads to perform responsibilities to efficiently govern.”
Lauzen has not announced if he will seek a third term.