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Daley Drops the Hammer on City Workers

By Kevin Robinson in News on Jul 16, 2009 4:40PM

As the deadline passed for two holdout unions to agree to concessions with the City of Chicago, the Mayor announced over 400 layoffs of city workers Wednesday. "I don't want to lay anyone off. It could have been avoided," Daley said Wednesday. "I feel for the members and of course their families." Referring to the truck drivers, library and public health and safety employees that were laid off, he said that Teamsters Local 726 and AFSCME Council 31 "have failed to reach an agreement with the city to take unpaid furlough days for the rest of the year to help us address our budget deficit and of course save our taxpayers money."

In spite of the standing offer (PDF) from AFSCME to "stand willing to meet any time for however long it takes", the union has refused to release its mysterious alternative plan to the media or the public. The mayor asked that city workers take 24 unpaid furlough days through June of 2011, take comp time in lieu cash overtime and take all city holidays as unpaid days off. He believes the layoffs, coupled with these cuts will save the city $24 million annually. The city faces a nearly $500 million budget shortfall.

While other city unions were willing to agree to those cuts, for truck drivers, at least, the comp time requirement was too much to swallow. Tom Clair, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 726 told the Sun-Times that "During the winter program, our people work snow. They also work out on the runways at O'Hare [Airport]. They felt it was too big a hit on the comp time. That accounts for $15,000-to-$30,000 more a year. They weren't willing to give that up." While the 290 AFSCME members that were cut are spread out across several city departments, more than half of which work in the library system. "You may not see your books back on the shelf as quickly as you're used to seeing them. If you place a book on hold, you may not get it as quickly because it's moving through the system more slowly. Everybody else will be working that much harder," said Library Commissioner Mary Dempsey. Libraries traditionally see an increase in patrons during recessions, and this year has been no different.