Mayor Emanuel reminds public unions that they work for us; lays off 625 union positions

Mayor Emanuel reminds public unions that they work for us; lays off 625 union positions

"My duty as mayor is to protect our city’s taxpayers, not the city payroll," Mayor Emanuel said last week in a statement announcing his intention to layoff 625 union city workers in an effort to help close Chicago’s massive budget shortfall. Prior to announcing the layoff, Mayor Emanuel sat down with public unions and asked them to offer concessions or cost cutting ideas to help close this budget hole.

After receiving no response, Mayor Emanuel announced the layoffs. Mayor Emanuel also announced his intention to privatize some union city positions; the mayor believes private companies can do some jobs cheaper.

The unions say Emanuel failed to have any meaningful discussion before pulling the rug out from under them. "Mayor Emanuel’s decision to lay off these workers and privatize services without really engaging in the process is both perplexing and disappointing to all of us," said the president of the Chicago Federation of Labor, Jorge Ramirez.

"If the mayor were serious about attempting to change any work rule, he would have taken the appropriate measures to engage in such discussions. The fact that he has never done so is clear evidence that his attempt to blame union work rules for the city’s massive deficit is mere public relations gimmickry," said Henry Bayer the Executive Director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

I like how Bayer mentions "union work rules," these are the same rules that prohibit conventioneers from bringing in their own cases of pop and other refreshments at McCormick Place and then charge $64.00 a case to do it for them. Or the rules that provide five man construction repair crews where one of the men is a designated driver and is only allowed to drive the other four to locations around the city where work must be done. "Union work rules" then provide the driver sit on his ass and watch the other four take a couple hours to do the job.

Union work rules sounds more like extortion at worst and extremely inefficient at best.

That’s why I like Emanuel’s idea of giving private companies a fair shake at doing the jobs that unions currently do at extortionist wages– as long as all the work doesn’t go to cousins of the former mayor Daley.

The United States was built on competition, right? So maybe it’s time unions compete. If a union organization can do the job better than a private company, then by all means, AFSCME employees should have the job. An AFSCME employee should not have the job, however, because its "slated" as a city union job. Slated jobs– with little accountability because of "union work rules"– have no incentive for the employee to do the job well. Mayor Emanuel is now demanding efficiency and accountability from union representatives; without these two, union representatives will have less and less people to represent.

Emanuel also called union work rules "archaic" and is looking for changes that have taken place in the private sector:

* Instead of double overtime, the city would pay employees time-and-a-half
* For prep time, city employees would receive their regular pay, not overtime pay
* Workers would be expected to work a 40-hour week, not a 35-hour week
* Workers doing the same job would receive the same pay, no matter what union they belong to
* Salaried employees will receive the same number of sick days and holidays as hourly employees
* The city would eliminate rate differences for driving different vehicles
* Rate differences for operating different non-vehicle equipment would be eliminated
* A worker who works alone on a truck will not receive more pay than if he or she works as part of a crew
* Union apprenticeship programs would be enhanced to achieve cost savings.

It is refreshing to see a Chicago mayor reverse the decades long thinking in City Hall and remember that these city employees work for us. If we’re not happy with the work they are doing for the price we’re paying, then we’ll find someone else to do it. Hopefully, this sort of fresh thinking will remain at City Hall, even when there is not a $650 million budget shortfall.

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