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Rahm: Unions Using Library Monday Closings As A "Bargaining Chip"

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jan 9, 2012 11:00PM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, facing criticism by unions, aldermen and residents for the Chicago Public Library's decision to close on Mondays, is firing back.

The Mayor's office released a statement this morning that reiterated Emanuel's position that the avoid library closings was contingent on union agreement. They cited Emanuel's City Council budget address from Oct. 12, Oct. 19 testimony from Budget Director Alex Holt to the City Council Budget Committee and testimony from CPL Commissioner Mary Dempsey on Oct. 21. Each are on message in stating the city can save nearly $7 million if unions agree to close library branches on Monday mornings and Friday mornings, allowing the library to be open six days a week.

Today, Emanuel accused the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, which represents library employees, of using the decision as a "bargaining chip."

“They’re trying to talk about a host of other subjects. I want to solve the library problem and they know that,” the mayor said.

“It doesn’t have to be this way … and it shouldn’t be. ... We have a plan for making sure our neighborhood libraries are open six-days-a-week. ... What it simply needs is a partner who’s ready to see that’s the goal and not try to use the libraries as a bargaining chip for something else. ... I’m looking forward to that partnership. The good news is, discussions are ongoing. The bad news is we have a Monday [closing and] this was all avoidable.”

And they probably are using it as a bargaining chip, just as Emanuel is using his talk of making tough decisions "in the best interest of the Chicago taxpayer" as one.

AFSCME Council 31 spokesman Anders Lindall said the decision to close libraries on Mondays was a violation of the union contract and that the union is weighing its options.

“It’s something we could grieve. We’ll look at our options under the contract or under the law. But what’s important to the people is to make sure libraries remain open. They don’t want both sides to agree on how to close libraries. Hopefully, we’ll be able to reach an agreement that can avert the reduced hours on a permanent basis going forward and bring the 176 library employees back from layoffs.”

Aldermen, meanwhile, are angry with Emanuel for what they believe is a broken agreement they had with the mayor. 32nd Ward Ald. Scott Waguespack told the Sun-Times:

"It’s completely contrary. We need to sit down quickly and get back to the original agreement, which was keep those libraries open” every day.