Talkin' Trash: Daley's Job Cuts May Mean More Garbage

Mayor Daley will eliminate 3,000 vacant positions and lay off 1,000 city employees -- 735 of them  union  members -- to solve Chicago's worst budget crisis in a generation, union leaders were told Monday. 

The biggest hit will be felt by Laborers Union Local 1001, whose members are in line for 300 pink slips in the Streets and Sanitation Department.

That’s likely to mean major changes in garbage collection, tree trimming and other housekeeping services. Possibilities range from lengthening the time between pickups -- once-a-week now in most neighborhoods, twice-a-week in congested areas -- to privatizing recycling and shrinking crew sizes.

“They put an average of 350 trucks out a day. To cut 300 bodies -- they’re probably gonna go to every other week pickup. That’s probably the only way they can do it. Either that, or every 10 days,” said Lou Phillips, business manager of Laborers Local 1001.

“You’re gonna have to look at your garbage an extra three or four days -- and I don’t know when they’ll be able to get to your bulk. It’s gonna create a rodent problem. You might even see a difference in the Loop area, as clean as the Loop is. That’s the showcase.”

A top mayoral aide, who asked to remain anonymous, insisted that weekly pickups would be maintained. That likely means greater use of crews with one laborer on a truck, instead of two.

To help plug the budget gap, Local 1001 has also been lobbying for a $10 monthly garbage collection fee and for the right to make city pickups at small businesses in exchange for a fee. It was not known whether Daley would propose the garbage fee, which some aldermen view as a backdoor property tax increase.

The 1,000 layoffs are expected to save $100 million. They represent the biggest purge of Daley’s nearly 20-year reign. Roughly 265 of those fired are expected to be middle managers.

The 3,000 vacancies to be eliminated include: 329 sworn Chicago police officers; 424 non-sworn police employees; 12 sworn firefighters, and 10 non-sworn fire employees.

Last month, Chief Financial Officer Paul Volpe pointedly refused to rule out police and fire layoffs  -- even as homicides and other violent crime continue to rise -- to close a $420 million budget gap over this year and next. But police officers and firefighters are not among those targeted for layoffs.

Meanwhile, all but six of Chicago’s 50 aldermen plan to accept a 6.2 percent cost-of-living increase that will boost their annual salaries to $110,556 Jan. 1. Aldermen John Pope (10th); James Balcer (11th); Scott Waguespack (32nd); Tom Tunney (44th); Helen Shiller (46th), and Mary Ann Smith (48th) are the only aldermen to sign affidavits by a Sept. 15 deadline declaring their intention
to forfeit the increase.

Forty-four aldermen declined to sign the affidavit from Budget Director Bennett Johnson, in part because of the effect it would have on their pensions. Some were offended that Johnson even asked.

“I need to see more from the departments. I need to see more from the administration. I’m looking at new cars and other luxuries that people have. We need to get rid of those luxuries ... before we balance the budget on the backs of working people -- including the two-(ticket) boot rule as well as the aldermen,” said Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th).

The mayor is scheduled to unveil his proposed 2009 budget on Oct. 15.

Copyright CHIST - SunTimes
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