UPDATED 06/28/11 6:52 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — One of the first major challenges facing Mayor Rahm Emanuel is a Thursday night deadline, when furloughs negotiated between former Mayor Richard M. Daley and labor leaders expire.
But instead of trying to extend the furloughs, the new mayor on Tuesday called them bad for workers and bad for the city.
CBS 2’s Chief Correspondent Jay Levine has more on a new twist to the mayor’s budget-balancing challenge.
Emanuel usually goes to great length to avoid blaming former Mayor Richard M. Daley for anything, but on Tuesday Emanuel just couldn’t help himself.
Without calling out Daley by name, Emanuel referred to Daley’s final budget, which counted on $30 million in labor cost savings from a furlough deal with the unions that expires on June 30.
On Tuesday, he vowed he’d save the $30 million without pushing for more furlough days for city workers.
“I do not think the furlough from either a morale perspective or a total – when you look at it – cost perspective, achieved everything, or it hasn’t been the panacea that it was said to do,” Emanuel said. “That said, we will get to $30 million in savings and I’m committed to doing it. I hope that that the leaders of organized labor are my partners in doing it.”
Two years ago, Daley laid off more than 400 union members when the Teamsters and AFSCME refused to go along with his furlough plan. Now, Emanuel is asking the union to come up with ideas to replace the savings realized through furlough days, as part of his plan to bridge a $700 million gap in this year’s budget.
Chicago Federation of Labor President Jorge Ramirez was seen arriving for a meeting with the mayor Tuesday afternoon, arriving 10 minutes early and telling reporters he couldn’t talk because he was late. He then sat in the outer office until the mayor called him in at 4:08 p.m., anxious to talk, but emphasizing there was only one possible outcome.
“It’s not less than $30 million. That is what we will achieve and they can be the partners, as I’ve said before, in helping solve that,” Emanuel said. “If they ideas, not total, up to 30, or some, I’ll adopt those and I’ll give them credit for having those ideas. And then I will make up the difference with my decision as mayor.”
The meeting lasted about an hour and in the words of one administration official, it was very, very productive. The mayor identified savings of tens of millions of dollars and labor leaders acknowledged that embracing reforms can avoid layoffs.