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Judge Won’t Reinstate City Traffic Aides

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City of Chicago traffic control aides direct cars through a downtown intersection on Aug. 10, 2011. (Credit: CBS)

City of Chicago traffic control aides direct cars through a downtown intersection on Aug. 10, 2011. (Credit: CBS)

dellimore250 Craig Dellimore
Craig Dellimore, political editor for WBBM, joined the station in 1983...
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Updated 08/10/11 – 4:14 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — It was a disappointing day in court for more than 70 laid-off City of Chicago traffic aides.

A judge on Wednesday refused to block their dismissals, which the Emanuel administration said are needed to save money.

Judge Rita Novak refused to issue a temporary restraining order, saying the union failed to prove irreparable harm to the workers.

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She said that if the union’s lawsuit fighting the layoffs is successful, the aides would be granted back pay.

Matt Brandon, secretary-treasurer of SEIU Local 73, which represents the workers, disagreed.

“The harm here is irreparable because in the corporate budget … they are eliminating the position of traffic control aide,” Brandon said.

Traffic control aide Elizabeth Diaz, an 18-year city employee, is a single mother with six dependents and, now, no job.

“I have three grandchildren that I have to take care of and when they need something, I’m there for them. And I can’t see them going to school hungry,” she told CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley on Wednesday.

Traffic control aide Lenore Robinson has been fighting breast cancer and no job means no insurance.

“Now I’m on my chemo treatments, and without my insurance, I won’t be able to do it,” she said.

Their stories are typical of the 72 full-time traffic control aides laid off by Mayor Rahm Emanuel on June 29.

The union said those layoffs were improper, with full-time aides allegedly replaced by part-timers.

“We don’t believe that their layoff helps a $600 million budget hole by laying off people who bring in more revenue than they’re being displaced for,” Brandon said.

Tickets written by traffic control aides generate $2.5 million a year in revenue for the city.

The city provided statistics showing they would take in more parking ticket revenue by using Revenue Department workers to write parking tickets downtown — partly because traffic control aides only write tickets when they’re not directing traffic.

The union for the traffic aides will go back to court next week, seeking a preliminary injunction to reverse the layoffs. The legal bar for that request is somewhat lower, so the traffic aides are still hopeful of getting their jobs back.

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