City Trucker Drivers Still Mulling Strike

By aaroncynic in News on Jan 26, 2010 8:00PM

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Photo by trippchicago
Responding to last week's news that the city truck drivers might vote to authorize a strike, stopping snow and garbage removal, among other city services, the mayor lashed out the drivers union. Mayor Daley said:

"These are tremendous jobs. ... They realize these are great jobs. ... You get a great salary. You get a great pension. You get great health care... Every day you want, you get off. Taxpayers all across this country are getting laid off. Their sons and daughters can't get a job. They're lucky they can hold onto their homes. Someone in their family has been cut back. These are very difficult times and we all have to share in that pain."

Last week, the Sun Times reported that 2,000 truck drivers in the city Departments of Aviation, Fleet Management, Streets and Sanitation, Transportation and Water Management are planning to take a vote authorizing a strike to express their frustration with the city's ignoring of their contract and a refusal to negotiate in good faith. Brian Rainville, executive director of Teamsters Joint Council 25, addressed the mayor's contention that truck drivers are sitting around at the airports and not working when there's no snow. Rainville told the Sun Times, "It's great press for Daley to concentrate on this one singular issue in Aviation. But, the fact is ... this has to do with the wholesale repudiation of the contract by city management. We've been trying to meet with the mayor and his team, and they're not moving on it at all." The Daley administration is claiming that a strike would be illegal; the Teamsters think otherwise, perhaps planning to argue that they are engaged in an unfair labor practice strike, rather than an economic action.

A strike by city workers won't be popular with Chicagoans and may even make the path to privatizing city services even easier for a mayor determined to auction off the city. Already, Chicago has an almost unmatched record when it comes to privatization. So far, Chicago has leased its parking and the Skyway and is considering leasing the water system. With seemingly anything available for sale, we wonder if the city will have any assets left.

Unfortunately, for city workers that want to stand up to a mayor they see as trying to blame the city's deep financial problems on their paychecks and jobs, many Chicagoans won't see this as an organized challenge to the mayor's power, or his obfuscation of the city's myriad financial crises. But with city workers in near-open defiance of the mayor, the cracks in Mayor Daley's seemingly impenetrable political armor are looking a little bigger.