City offices closed for furlough day

August 17, 2009 8:50:24 PM PDT
Thousands of city workers got a forced, unpaid day off on Monday as part of the plan to cut costs during Chicago's budget crisis. And now more state employees may face furloughs as well.Police, fire and tow truck drivers were among the few city workers on the job on Monday. It was the first of three furlough days this year. The others are the day after Thanksgiving and Christmas eve. But this was a regular Monday. And it caught a lot of people off guard.

Allen Padecky had to struggle with his walker to make it to the library downtown on Monday afternoon. But when he got there he was out of luck. The library was closed.

"I can accept it if it's good for the city. If it helps their budget," said Padecky.

Mayor Daley negotiated three so-called reduced service days this year to help save about $8 million in the budget.

In addition to libraries, ward offices, health clinics, even City Hall, were all closed for business on Monday.

Ki Ma was hoping to get immunizations for school.

"School starts really soon...I need to get a shot as soon as possible," said student Ki Ma.

All over the city, the closures made for some major inconveniences.

"It's a headache, a real headache. I came all the way here with no notice," said Cheryl Flemings of Chicago.

Headache or not, the furlough days have become a popular budget fix all over the country. Sixty-nine percent of cities around the country are now using furloughs, layoffs or pay freezes to cut costs. And it's likely to become even more common.

"The worst of the budget picture still hasn't hit yet. The worst will probably come in 2010 or 2011," said Chris Hoene, National League of Cities.

And it's not just cities. Gov. Pat Quinn's budget calls for 2600 layoffs of union workers. But he says he would rather save jobs and impose furlough days if the union will agree.

"That's the only card I've been dealt. I can only indicate layoffs. We're going to do that, already have, and I look forward to negotiation if that's possible," said Quinn.

The union which represents state workers issued a statement saying: "The administration must present to the body of local union presidents representing state employees any proposals that would require reopening our contract."

The governor did in fact meet with union leaders on Monday afternoon. They told him they believe layoffs will hurt not only state services but the economy by putting thousands more people out of work. AFSCME leaders also say they cannot commit to furlough days. Union also resisted furlough days from the city and workers were laid off.


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