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Union Leader Challenges Chicago Mayor’s Shutdown Plan

Mayor Richard M. Daley had asked employee unions to accept voluntary furloughs, but they have refused. The mayor is expected to announce 1,000 or more layoffs.

September 16, 2011
Related Topics: Labor Relations, Termination, Workforce Planning, Latest News
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The head of a major union for Chicago city employees says he’s not sure Mayor Richard M. Daley legally can shut down city government for six days over the next two years to help plug a city budget hole.

“They can’t just tell people, ‘Don’t come to work today,’ ” said Henry Bayer, regional head of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

On Tuesday, October 14, Daley announced plans to effectively close City Hall on the day after Thanksgiving and on Christmas and New Year’s eves. Only emergency workers, mostly police and firefighters, would be exempt from the plan that calls for city employees—both union and nonunion workers—to take unpaid days off.

Daley said the move would save the city $20 million, helping close a $400 million-plus deficit in the 2009 city budget he is to unveil Wednesday, October 15.

Bayer said the plan is the equivalent of laying people off, a step that requires a series of intricate legal steps to implement. He didn’t think much of the substance of the idea, either.

“You’re already having complaints from people about diminution of city services,” he said. “This will just cut them more.”

At a time of the year when most employers offer bonuses or gifts to their workers, Daley wants them to lose pay, Bayer added.

“It’s a funny way of saying, ‘Merry Christmas.’ ”

Daley had asked employee unions to accept voluntary furloughs, but they have refused. The mayor is expected to announce 1,000 or more layoffs during his budget announcement.

Filed by Greg Hinz of Crain’s Chicago Business, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce.com

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