City set to layoff hundreds of workers

July 15, 2009 5:17:41 PM PDT
Hundreds of city union employees, including some workers at community health clinics, will be laid off Thursday as the city failed to strike a deal with two of its labor unions. A total of 431 workers will be out of jobs. Both AFSCME and the Teamsters failed to reach an agreement with city officials. No new negotiations between the city and union leaders are scheduled at this hour.

Mayor Daley said Wednesday morning he was giving the two holdout unions until the end of the workday to accept a deal that includes furloughs. That time has come and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and Teamsters Local 726 have not changed their minds.

The mayor's office says plans are in place so the layoffs will have little impact on city services. The unions disagree.

Wednesday was Dr. Lourdes Balquidra's last day on the job. City layoffs include eliminating what the mayor's office calls an underutilized dental program. Maria Monrique brought her son in just in time. Monrique says she has never taken anything free from the government, but Wednesday, she didn't have a choice.

"My husband lost his job, so we don't have health insurance. We are coming here because my son needs a dental exam to get him in high school," said Monrique.

Dentists, some police department clerical staff and some library employees make up the 290 members of AFSCME who are being laid off. Also on the hit list: 141 Teamsters who drive trucks for eight city departments.

"I didn't want to lay anyone off because it could have been all avoided. I feel for members and their families," Mayor Daley said.

Layoffs could have been avoided had AFSCME and Teamsters voted for a two-year deal offered by Mayor Daley that calls for 24 unpaid furlough days through June 2011, substitute comp time for cash overtime and converts all city holidays to unpaid days.

"Many of our members depend on this overtime, because they work the snow in the winter, and this can mount up between $15,000 to $30,000 extra, and they felt it was not a fair exchange," said Tom Clair, Teamsters Union 726.

As for AFSCME, union leadership presented an alternative plan that they say would save the city the same amount of dollars as the mayors furlough deal.

"For weeks the city refused to even negotiate such an alternative plan," said Anders Lindall, AFSCME Council 31.

But, the mayor has said for weeks, the choice is layoffs or the same plan that 25 unions have already accepted.

"Everybody has to be in the same boat, you can't leave people out. Once you start leaving people out, then it creates real issues," said Mayor Daley.

Originally, the mayor's office handed out over 1,500 pink slips to union employees. Over 1,000 jobs have been saved by unions who signed on to the mayor's deal.

AFSCME and Teamster members voted on the city's proposal after they had received layoff notices. So, some members admit they voted the plan down because they knew they were not getting laid off.


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