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City Employees Hold Their Own Against Contractors

By Chris Bentley in News on Oct 20, 2011 6:00PM

Mayor Emanuel’s game is afoot, and so far it could go either way. City employees remain competitive against the two private contractors, Waste Management and Sims Metal Management, vying for the opportunity to collect household recycling in Chicago.

Apparently heeding Emanuel’s call for a “paradigm shift,” city workers showed up early, revised routes and volunteered to use fewer trucks when possible. And not one called in sick.

The six-month contest began two weeks ago amid debate that the Mayor’s “managed competition” amounted to privatizing city jobs. Emanuel lit a fire under labor leaders, calling on union workers to prove their value against private sector competitors by cutting costs in city services that also include towing, tree-trimming and street marking.

Emanuel’s proposed 2012 city budget also includes a switch from a ward-by-ward to a grid system for collection. The recycling bout is largely a precursor to a higher stakes battle for the city’s trash pickup. The Mayor has previously noted that Chicago spends as much as $230 per ton to pick up garbage, compared to about $100 in Los Angeles and well under $100 elsewhere.