Budget '09: The Unions Strike Back

By Marcus Gilmer in News on Oct 20, 2008 9:45PM

Mayor Daley's proposed 2009 budget got no love from organized labor this weekend. But Daley's not taking any of their guff by telling them to go along with the plan or be prepared to find a pink slip. On Friday, union leaders and city officials met to discuss the 929 city employees who would be laid off if Daley's budget were okayed by the city council (we wonder what the odds are on that bet).

Chicago Federation of Labor President Dennis Gannon said the talks didn't go well and threatened to take legal action against Daley's plan to shutdown city government - with the exception of essential city services - around holidays. The Chicago Federation of Labor thinks that Daley can't legally make this move because it amounts to a furlough, or an unpaid day off, which has to be approved by union leaders. Although, when has the law ever stopped Daley from implementing his plans? Daley countered Gannon's arguments on Saturday by saying that non-union workers are currently taking three furlough days (with three more possibly on the way) while union workers aren't taking any furlough days.

Meanwhile, another union is joining the fray and voicing disapproval over Daley's budget. Henry Bayer, who is the executive director of AFSCME Council 31, is worried that cutting the city's Health Department will put the public at risk. He told the Sun-Times that the city's Food Sanitation Section would be cut down from 62 employees to 45. The Health Department could also see 160 vacant jobs eliminated. Dr. Terry Mason, the city's health commissioner, told the Sun-Times that these cuts could result in longer lines at hospitals and clinics.

It will be interesting to see how Daley will balance the demands of organized labor while remaining fiscally responsible. But he can at least breathe a little easier knowing that we're far away from an election year.

By Hunter Clauss