Mayor Daley is giving city unions a choice: accept unpaid furlough days, which will cut their pay by at least 8%, or be prepared to see at least 1500 workers lose their jobs.
"I don't want to lay off any employee," Daley said at a City Hall news conference Wednesday. "I want every family to be secure. Layoffs can still be avoided."
Daley was joined by Chicago Federation of Labor President Dennis Gannon, who said the majority of the city's unions had agreed to the concessions package. Gannon identified the Teamsters, Laborers, and AFSCME as the holdouts.
"We're in economic times that we've never been in before," Gannon said. "We are encouraging our leadership to take the deal."
AFSCME's president fired back that the city's proposal was unreasonable, and would actually mean close to a 10% cut for his members.
"AFSCME members are among the lowest-paid city workers," said Henry Bayer, the union president. "Many live from paycheck to paycheck, and they simply cannot afford a pay cut of that magnitude."
Bayer accused the city of negotiating in bad faith, and said if layoffs become necessary, "you can lay the blame squarely at the feet of the mayor of Chicago."
"We have made the city a proposal which would save them as much money as they would save from laying our members off," Bayer said. "But they have rejected that proposal. They haven't really told us why."
Teamsters union officials say their members rejected the proposed deal last week. Ken Brantley, the union's vice-president said, "Our position is one word -- NO!"
But Tom Villanova, representing the building trades, joined Gannon at Daley's side, echoing the call that the concessions were necessary.
"What's really at stake here is 1504 families," Villanova said. "That's the bottom line of the whole thing."
Villanova noted that his unions represent some 100,000 construction workers in the city, and that some unions are facing 30% unemployment.
"There's nowhere to go for these 1504 people if they get laid off," he said. "We're going to ruin 1504 families."
"It's easy to be a labor leader in good times," Gannon said. "It's not so easy when we have to ask our members to step up and take a cut in pay."
If implemented at mid month, the 1504 layoffs would total $76 million in annual salary reductions. They would affect employees in 28 city departments.
Daley urged the three recalcitrant unions to get on board.
"Because once people get laid off, it's very difficult for them, in this tough economy, to find a job."