Oak Lawn’s Mayor, Sandra Bury’s administration has a spotty record with the village’s labor unions. A decision to fire the 9-1-1 operators and the never ending battles with the Oak Lawn firefighters union are the prime examples of how to disrespect union workers.
The Oak Lawn Firefighters Union recently filed another grievance due to the village’s failure to hire firefighters/paramedics as others have retired as they continue in negotiations on a contract.
Chicago’s Rahm Emanual, on the other hand, recently announced an agreement with 31 labor unions that Emanual said will guarantee that residents continue to receive “the high quality services they expect”. Most Oak Lawn residents would probably say that they too deserve high quality services and don’t want to see those services diminished.
Emanual, who has taken his share of criticism in the press, said the contract “reflects the interests of the taxpayer” but he also acknowledged that the agreement “respects the 7,700 city employees who serve our city and are members of the unions.” In other words, Emanual compromised.
You have to give credit where credit is due and in an opinion piece for the Chicago Sun-Times, Emanual noted that negotiations involve give and take. That seems to be a lesson that is lost on the Bury administration, which seems to negotiate with the idea that the only give and take involves the village giving an offer and telling union members to take it or else.
Emanual, no doubt, will use the agreements to bolster his support among union leadership and the members. But, perhaps he deserves such support from those union members because he recognized in his commentary that the agreement was built on the foundation that was laid through collaborative work.
There may be a lesson for Oak Lawn officials to take from Mayor Emanual. He called the unions “our partners in labor”. When is the last time you heard Mayor Sandra Bury or Village Manager Larry Deetjen refer to unions this way. In fact, we can’t print the words that have been used to describe the members.
Suffice to say, the descriptions are always negative and not conducive to building a partnership.
Emanual recognized that there may be a lesson for others to learn noting that leaders should actually sit down with labor unions, instead of trying to step on them. He also said that sometimes a leader’s rhetoric doesn’t match reality.
For years, Oak Lawn residents have been told that the unions are not reasonable. It was the same rhetoric that Bury used to secure the endorsements of trade unions in her last race despite her anti-labor record. The municipality’s unions sat out the election and let the trade unions dictate the election results while never having to suffer the consequences. Now, the municipal unions are learning that their inactivity has only emboldened the current regime.
The unions are more reasonable than Bury and Deetjen think and they are ready to roll up their sleeves to get the job done. Emanual acknowledged that fact and got the job done. Now, we’ll see if Oak Lawn’s leadership can learn that valuable lesson.