CFL News
May 25, 2012

New labor contracts create jobs, save millions

Unions representing public workers in Chicago are saving the city millions with new agreements

Source: Fox Chicago

By Mike Flannery

CHICAGO (FOX Chicago News) -

The cement saw and repair crew were a welcome sight for West Siders who told us their water main in the 600 block of North Lawndale has been leaking slowly for several weeks.  FOX Chicago News has learned there will soon be dozens of additional Water Department workers on the street, thanks to an historic breakthrough agreement between City Hall and several labor unions.

"It puts people back to work. And it also allows us to get the work done. And it also allows us to save taxpayer money," said Water Department Commissioner Tom Powers.

Powers said he's already hired 40 of the 75 new laborers he plans to add this year.  While they train in a new apprenticeship program, they'll earn lower wages for two years.  And, as "seasonal" employees, they'll be paid only when there's real work for them to do.  But their union is happy, because Mayor Emanuel's multi-billion dollar infrastructure repair program should generate 10 years of steady work.

"For taxpayers, the city and Local 1092, I think it's a great idea from all sides," said Joe Healy of Laborers Union Local 1092.

FOX Chicago News learned that City Hall's reached quiet new agreements with not just the laborers, but also plumbers, cement masons, bricklayers, and hoisting engineers, with total efficiency savings of $39.2 million through 2017.

"The mayor worked with unions. And the commissioner worked with us and we have been trying for a while. So, it finally came together," Healy said. "I think [Mayor Emanuel] worked well. It's something we wanted.