Chicago reaches labor deal with non-sworn public safety workers
BY FRAN SPIELMAN Sun-Times Media October 1, 2012 6:08PM
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is shown at an event at McCormick Place Monday. A city council committee delivered him a victory by approving a labor deal with non-sworn public safety workers. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times
Updated: November 3, 2012 6:21AM
With contentious negotiations dragging on with city police officers and firefighters, a Chicago City Council committee on Monday handed Mayor Rahm Emanuel a smaller labor victory — by advancing a four-year contract with 2,530 “non-sworn” public safety employees.
The agreement with Service Employees International Union Local 73 and IBEW Local 21 will limit pay raises to 6 percent over four years and substitute one-time-only “signing bonuses” of $150 to $500 for retroactive pay.
Nearly 2,100 of the impacted employees are members of Local 73 representing traffic control and parking enforcement aides, crossing guards, detention aides, aviation security officers and inspectors, officers and aides assigned to the city’s Commission on Animal Care and Control.
The remaining 431 employees are members of Local 21, including police communication operators at the city’s 911 emergency center as well as aviation communication operators who take similar emergency calls at O’Hare Airport.
“This agreement is the result of over two years of hard bargaining that, we believe, is a good deal for the taxpayers of the City of Chicago and the employees,” Don O’Malley, director of labor relations for the city’s law department, told the City Council’s Workforce Development Committee.
“Under this agreement, lump-sum payments would be made in the following amounts: full-time employees would receive $500. Crossing guards would receive $300. Part-time employees who worked more than 120 hours in the preceding 12 months would receive $150.”
Matt Brandon, secretary-treasurer of SEIU Local 73, acknowledged he agreed to forego a retroactive pay raise in favor of a one-time only cash bonus that does not apply to future salaries or pensions at a time when the city had a $369 million budget shortfall and tax increases appeared to be a certainty.
Since then, rebounding revenues and higher than expected savings from cost-cutting and debt collection have reduced the shortfall to $298 million, prompting Emanuel to rule out tax, fine or fee increases of any kind.
Asked Monday if he regrets not driving a harder bargain, Brandon said, “The city said they didn’t have the money for retroactive pay. That’s what caused the bonus. And the 6 percent over four years is what our members thought was a fair deal for these economic times.
“At the time, the budget deficit was portrayed as a lot more than it is now. We got the best deal available at the time, and our members wanted to move on with a little bit of certainty they were gonna get some increase. We started (with the city proposing) no increase.”
Last year, SEIU Local 73 did battle with Emanuel over the mayor’s decision to lay off 72 full-time traffic-control aides, 26 of whom have since been re-hired as police detention aides or to replace traffic control aides who have since retired. IBEW did the same over the mayor’s cutbacks at the 911 center.
This year, the union signed an early agreement with the city that expires on June 30, 2016, even though the new contract does not include a no-layoff guarantee.