Chicago offers 5-year deal to snowplow operators following strike threat

Chicago offers 5-year deal to snowplow operators following strike threat

Illinois’ unfair collective bargaining laws led to a five-year contract offer on the eve of a strike vote.

Union officials have announced that the city of Chicago has offered city snowplow, garbage truck and other motor truck drivers a five-year contract, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The tentative agreement between the city and Teamsters Local 700, which represents approximately 2,000 city motor truck drivers, came the night before a Jan. 7 meeting of union members, at which officials had scheduled a vote on a potential strike.

The ability to threaten to shut down essential services – such as snowplowing city streets – is a powerful bargaining chip that Illinois, alone among neighboring states, has granted most of its government workers. This tilted power balance is reflected in some of the nation’s highest property tax bills.

A strike by motor truck drivers could have had devastating effects on the city, affecting not just the plowing of snowy, icy roads, but also the clearing of airport runways and other work such as the repair of water main breaks.

Neither city officials nor Teamsters Local 700 representatives would provide any other contract details to the Tribune, but Teamsters officials have said the agreement will be submitted within the next 10 days for ratification by union members.

The Tribune notes the new contract would replace a 10-year agreement that expired in 2017. Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson has criticized such lengthy and expensive collective bargaining agreements and recommended contracts of shorter duration with more cost-conscious wage and benefit provisions.

Though it appears a strike has been averted, it is not yet clear at what cost. And Illinois’ unfair collective bargaining laws are largely to blame for the predicament in which Chicago taxpayers have found themselves with respect to this government worker union.

Illinois’ government union bargaining rules stack the deck against taxpayers

Unlike all of its neighboring states, Illinois lawmakers have enshrined a “right to strike” in state law for most government workers.

Illinois alone gives most government worker unions the right to strike

Unlike in the private sector, when government worker unions threaten to strike, they are threatening to shut down government functions and deprive residents of necessary services. And it isn’t those sitting on the other side of the negotiating table, such as the governor or a city council, who directly bear the harm – it is the residents themselves.

Moreover, the costs of averting a strike – which often include expensive contract terms that can lead to higher property taxes – are committed to by politicians, but paid for by the taxpayers they represent.

This is not the norm in the region. Every one of Illinois’ neighbors prohibits most or all government workers from going on strike.

Prohibiting government worker strikes helps even the playing field. And it helps ensure a state’s residents can get the services they need, without interference by government worker unions.

Until Illinois follows the lead of its neighbors, government unions across the state will continue wielding unfair power over the people of Illinois. And the cost of living in Illinois, including its already sky-high property taxes, will continue to rise.

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