Less pay, more training for new streets and sanitation workers

New agreement between major labor union and the city of Chicago changes work rules for new hires

May 1, 2012

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(Flickr/juicyrai)

New Chicago streets and sanitation workers will see more training but less pay under a new agreement between the city and a major labor union.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the agreement Tuesday with Laborers Union 1001. He said the changes are projected to save taxpayers more than $30 million dollars over the next six years.

From now on, new hires for the city's Department of Streets and Sanitation won't just be trained for one job, like rodent control. They'll also learn how to remove graffiti, trim trees,sweep the streets, hang signs and more. On average, the city hires 50 new workers for that department each year. Emanuel said the changes would make things more flexible for superintendents that need more hands on deck for a particular job.

"This is a new day. We have to write new rules. We can't get stuck in the old way," Emanuel said.

New hires will start at $20 dollars per hour, which is $13 dollars less than the current entry rate. Their rates per job will also change. Currently, a street and sanitation worker is paid the same rate, no matter which job he or she completes. The new rules state that someone who trims trees, for example, won't be paid the tree-trimming rate if he or she is needed for street sweeping.

Lou Phillips, head of Local 1001 said the plan was a win-win-win, especially with the city's tough budget situation.

"My service is providing work for my members and that's what I have to do. So if we need to be more competitive to fit into the scheme of things, then we need to be more competitive. We need to step up and do the right thing," Phillips said.

The new agreement won't affect any current employees in the union. They are still covered by a previously negotiated contract that runs for five more years. Phillips said he'd be talking to members this evening about the new rules.