Unions Planning Daley Snow Job

City truck drivers threaten strike, could affect airports

By Matt Bartosik
|  Friday, Jan 22, 2010  |  Updated 12:45 PM CDT
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Chicago's Snow in Photos

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NEW YORK - JANUARY 23: A New York City Sanitation snow plow clears a street of snow January 23, 2005 in the Whitestone neighborhood of New York City. The northeast got its first major snowfall of the year with some parts of New York City area receiving over a foot of snow. (Photo by Anthony Correia/Getty Images)

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If a solution for the truck drivers isn't found soon, all our airplanes could be stuck to the ground.

Next week, 2,000 Chicago truck drivers—including O'Hare and Midway Airport snow removers—will likely vote to approve a strike, in response to a reduction of their work hours by Mayor Daley, the Sun-Times reports.

For several years, snow-removal truck drivers at both airports were guaranteed eight-hour workdays, even when there was no snow on the ground. The drivers could be assigned to other tasks, like towing, repairing or washing other vehicles.

But that changed on December 15. Drivers were notified that an undisclosed number of them would be sent home with only two payable hours on days when there is no snow in the forecast.

"While there is sometimes additional work or special assignments that can be given to these drivers when there is no snow, the city reserves the right to send drivers home when there is no work to be done," Law Department spokesperson Jennifer Hoyle told the Sun-Times.

But the drivers say they're being punished by Mayor Daley for not taking the deal he put on the table.

"The mayor gave us a choice of taking the furloughs and comp time or layoffs. We chose layoffs," said Mark Kaminski, a Department of Aviation driver at O'Hare. "We gave up [141] of our members. But the mayor didn't like it."

And as we all know, the mayor always makes sure he gets what he wants.

If the drivers strike however, the airports might have to shut down, because only FAA-approved drivers can drive on the tarmac and clear snow from the runways.

The airports aren't the only ones at risk either. Snow removal and garbage collection citywide could be affected if the city drivers go on strike.

Hoyle is adamant that a strike is banned by the drivers' contract and could consequently lead to terminations and lawsuits.

"We would prefer to settle any differences through negotiations," said Brian Rainville, executive director of Teamsters Joint Council 25. "But, if the city continues to push the ball, we're gonna take the vote. The city is putting us in a position where those are the options left."

Matt Bartosik is a Chicago native and a social media sovereign.

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