But Emanuel Has Warning To Union Leaders To Avoid City Layoffs

Updated 06/29/11 – 6:58 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Wednesday that Walgreens is set to bring 600 jobs to Chicago over the next two years, but at the same time he warned of up to 625 city layoffs if labor unions don’t agree to cost savings measures.

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CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine has more on the mayor’s give and take on the job front. It was a different kind of ultimatum, but no less of a difficult choice to create some jobs while at the same time threatening to eliminate existing ones.

The timing of the two announcements could have been coincidence, but were all the more notable coming on the same day.

Deerfield-based Walgreens’ decision to bring 600 new jobs to Chicago is part of its new “Chicago Hometown Investment Initiative,” which will also quadruple the number of stores in the city’s food deserts.

Emanuel toured the one of Walgreens’ newly renovated South Side stores, with expanded health care sections and services, as well as fresh food aisles for a Chatham community which had long been considered one of Chicago’s so-called “food deserts.”

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Chatham resident Pearlie Horace said the new store was the “best thing that could have happened to Chatham. … because it improved the neighborhood and it also give us a sense of worth.”

Walgreens was promising a major expansion to 50 stores in areas like Chatham, hiring 300 new employees. Those jobs will be created by remodeling many of the 142 existing Walgreens drugstores and opening nearly 40 new ones in the next two years, the Mayor’s Office said.

The other 300 new jobs would be at its downtown office space, which is used for electronic commerce, information technology and related business.

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“A win, a win and a win; jobs, economic growth and good public health and public safety,” Emanuel said of Walgreens’ expansion in Chicago.

But the Mayor also revealed Wednesday that other jobs were on the line, unless city’s union leaders, who quietly ducked in and out of his office on Monday, come to the table with tens of millions of dollars in work reforms and efficiencies.

“I said if we do this, I don’t have to lay off 625 people,” Emanuel said. “I don’t want to.”

A statement from Chicago Federation of Labor leaders Jorge Ramirez and Tom Villanova said “organized labor has been working to identify significant cost savings through efficiencies and best practices on behalf of taxpayers. … We plan to present this report to the Mayor in the coming weeks.”

Emanuel acknowledged, “they’re working on their plan, [but] I’m not just gonna sit here and wait.

Meantime, Emanuel complimented Walgreens for “investing in the City of Chicago in a way, growing jobs in our neighborhoods and downtown.”

The new Walgreens stores will have healthy food products on the shelves to provide more options to those who live in food deserts. Currently, Walgreens only has 11 stores in areas that are designated food deserts, the Mayor’s Office said.

Emanuel said that this is his fifth major jobs announcement since taking office, and a total of 3,600 jobs have been created in Chicago in that time.

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Emanuel also said he is working with the city’s unions in an effort to hammer out workplace concessions to save money. Without a new deal, he said he will have to lay off 625 city workers. He said layoff notices could start this week.