Chicago's Pending Rat Problem

Streets and San is targeting rodent control staff cuts

Cuts in local forestry and rodent control services could leave Chicago with a rat problem come summer, union officials say.

The secretary-treasurer of Laborers Union Local 1001 said the city already lost 100 sanitation workers because of a two-year hiring freeze.

Now, Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Tom Byrne is pulling people off rodent control to help pick up garbage.

The union was told cuts are scheduled to begin Friday and will eliminate nearly half the rodent crews citywide.

"The people who are actually baiting, the numbers are going to drop," said Lou Phillips with Laborers Local 1001.  "Those are the people that walk down the alley and bait the holes [with poison]"

But Matt Smith, the spokesperson for the Department of Streets and Sanitation said Phillips is wrong. 

"That is not the case. Bait crews will be reduced temporarily from 17 to 15 citywide. That's it. And this is only a temporary reduction based on operational needs. Not a cut," he said.

Phillips said his union was also given notice that the job of putting together and delivering carts is also being reassigned to sanitation workers. He fears that move will overload the sanitation bureau and make the rat problem even worse.

"Carts work hand-in-hand with rodent control. If the garbage isn't contained, the rats are going to have a free buffet dinner," Phillips said.

Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel was non-committal when asked if he'd reverse any decisions about rodent patrol crews when he takes office. 

"We will make recommendations, or come in with our agenda, but I understand what is motivating that, given the costs," Emanuel said.  "There will be no part of city government that we're going to just say, 'That's how it was done in the past, we've got to continue.'"

Still, many residents are already alarmed.

"Some of the rats are almost as big as the cats," said Clayton Glasscoe, who llives in the 7100 block of South Wolcott Avenue.  "You just going to leave the rats there? We got a very bad problem with them over here."

The city's personnel changes will not affect those that inspect restaurants.

On Monday, a Rogers Park Mediterranean restaurant was ordered closed for a rat and mouse infestation, among other issues.   Big Buns & Pita, 6649 N. Clark St., was closed after inspectors found more than 150 mice droppings, 50 rat droppings and several live roaches.

Contact Us