Mayor Emanuel troubled by city worker layoffs

July 20, 2011 (CHICAGO)

But, the mayor claimed, he must do so because of Chicago's budget deficit.

Emanuel said he helped the employees by eliminating unpaid and unpopular furlough days, but he noted that action increased the deficit -- and he added that union leaders failed to accept his proposed money-saving workplace reforms.

Mayor Emanuel's letter:

Dear City of Chicago Employee:

When I ran for Mayor, I told the people of Chicago that I was going to be honest with them, tell the hard truths and make the tough choices.

Last Friday, I had to make one of those tough choices.

On the campaign trail and since being elected, I have talked to many city employees who said furloughs were demoralizing and disruptive. So, on June 30, I allowed them to expire - for union and non-union members alike. It was the right thing to do. But, doing so left the city with a $31 million deficit and eliminating that shortfall is also the right thing to do for the city's taxpayers. I cannot wish it away.

My budget team worked day and night to find the money to make up the difference without cutting essential services or jobs, and we were able to identify $20 million in savings - by providing health care in a more cost-effective way and leaving up to 200 non-public safety positions unfilled for a period of time.

We asked union leaders to be the City's partner in identifying ways to close the remaining $10 million gap. We provided suggestions for workplace reforms that are accepted practices in the public and private sectors.

By adopting these workplace reforms we can save jobs but reforms have not been agreed upon. Thus, I must begin the process of laying off up to 625 city workers.

As I have said time and again, my door will always be open to any ideas that can save the taxpayers money. And I remain eager to reach agreement on workplace reforms. I am also eager to hear your suggestions; some of the best ideas for savings come from employees who are on the front lines every day, working hard to make Chicago work for its residents. Please send your ideas to budgetideas@cityofchicago.org

It troubles me greatly to do this. Laying off city employees should be the last resort. I know that city employees have families to support and bills to pay. And those impacted by these layoffs are facing an economy where jobs are scarce. But you are also a taxpayer and you know first-hand that working families across Chicago are struggling every day just to keep their heads above water. My first responsibility is to them.

It is my job to protect the city's taxpayers, not the city's payroll. I have to make the best decisions for the entire city.

I have immense gratitude and deep respect for the thousands of men and women in our city workforce. Chicago residents rely on you to provide the services that enable them to live, work, and raise families in our great city. But we must do so in a way that doesn't pass the burden onto the city's taxpayers. That is the challenge we face now, and that is the challenge we will continue to face in 2012.

The status quo just isn't working for our city or its residents. We must change the way we do business to build a better future for Chicago.

I hope this letter has helped to clarify the current situation, and I look forward to benefiting from the ideas of our city employees and their unions, and making sure that Chicago remains a great city during these difficult times.

Sincerely,
Mayor Rahm Emanuel

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