The Chicago Park District and the union representing its employees have reached a tentative contract agreement that will keep Chicago's parks open, the union said Wednesday.
"Today we are here after nine hard months of negotiating to announce that we've won a historic agreement with the Chicago Park District," said Jeffrey Howard, executive vice president of SEIU Local 73.
The union's bargaining team voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve the agreement "that makes significant progress to make sure that all park jobs are jobs where workers can earn family sustaining wages," Howard said.
Wages were at the heart of negotiations, and according to Howard, workers "won significant raises in wages and benefits," particularly for part-time employees.
"By negotiating in good faith and reaching a bargaining agreement with SEIU Local 73, the City is affirming our respect for the Chicago Park District employees who run programs, manage facilities and keep residents safe," said Mayor Lori Lightfoot in a statement. "Chicagoans take immense pride in their community’s parks and this agreement ensures they will remain cultural gems and places for recreation, civic engagement and City programing."
The union thanked the district and Supt. Mike Kelly for their part in coming to the agreement, as well as Chicagoans who have shown their support.
"We have been shown tremendous support from all of the park users and even people just walking up and down the street," said Becky Clyber, a Park District employee, "and that has meant a lot to us because you are the people that we do this work for."
SEIU Local 73 said there is still more work to do as it continues to fight for "well-paying jobs with family sustaining wages."
Howard also made it clear they stand with Chicago Public Schools teachers as they prepare to strike.
"We stand united with the teachers and the public schools staff who are taking action for the fight for good jobs that our community needs," Howard said. "This is the power of unions. This is the power of SEIU Local 73, and this is why everyone needs a union."