Chicago union cautions city of making rat problem worse

March 29, 2011

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A Chicago labor leader says the city could be facing a bigger rodent problem this summer. He says there will be fewer workers to combat rats. Lou Phillips is with Laborers' Local 1001. He says his union, which represents Chicago Streets and Sanitation workers, has received notice from the city that some workers will be re-deployed. Phillips says the city is taking workers away from tree trimming and rodent control - and putting them on street sweeping duty.

"They want their street sweeping to work, as well as I do," Phillips said. "But there's other ways to do it by cutting the bodies from services that are already depleted."

Street sweeping begins at the start of April.

Meanwhile, Matt Smith, a spokesman with Streets and Sanitation, said the staffing move is temporary and he said rodent complaints around the city are down so far this year compared to last year.

In a statement, Smith wrote, "The reason that we have to shift workers around is because there are 309 workers who don’t come to work every day or are on reduced duty assignments because they are on various forms of leave. Of those 309 workers, 202 are members of Local 1001. On any give day in our Bureau of Sanitation, which handles refuse collection and residential street sweeping as many as 30 to 35 sanitation laborers call off every day with absences that are not scheduled."