Library advocates, employees, and AFSCME Council 31 members read letters written by concerned patrons out front of the mayor’s office Thursday morning. After a long battle in the recent months Mayor Rahm Emanuel ultimately shortened library hours and cut roughly 100 staff members. Council 31 claims that restoring $1 million in funding would allow the Chicago library system to once again function fully.
“Rather than recalling about 100 part-time pages Mayor Emanuel laid off in January, the city is now working other employees overtime—and paying them time-and-a-half—to do page work such as shelving books,” said Anders Lindall, the public affairs director for Council 31. “Since pages earned just $11 an hour, it stands to reason the city’s overtime scheme is significantly more costly, but the union’s repeated requests for relevant payroll data have gone unanswered. The public deserves to know whether the city is wasting money on overtime by its refusal to bring back part-time pages.”
In the initial budget battle the mayor tried to slash $10 million from its coffers and 363 employees. The mayor conceded ground following public outcry and pushback from more than two dozen aldermen. The group delivered nearly 600 letters to a mayoral aide where he said the mayor would “most likely read them.”
Listen to the reading of more letters.
Occupy Chicago also participated in the event and released the following statement:
We also hold firm that libraries, like all other public services, must be operated, staffed and maintained by Unionized public employees to keep true ownership of the system by the public and accountability of it to the public as well as to keep our government out of the business of pauperizing the working class.
During budget crisis governments, especially city and state, tend to cut funds and layoff employees in an effort to reign in the debt load. Unfortunately, the blame often falls on the feet of the working people in the public sector. Chicago’s most recent budget epitomized this thinking by slashing funding to the library, mental health clinics, and more vital services.
“Over the last few years the library has served more than 11 million people per year,” says Carl Sorrell, president of AFSCME Local 1215. “11 million people and 80 locations. We serve these people everyday. When our doors open 10, 20 people stand outside each branch door. When doors close we have to usher people out cause they need these services. They don’t have access to the internet. They don’t have computers at home. They don’t have resources to learn how to do resumes or look for jobs. This is what we do.”
On their website AFSCME noted:
Mayor Emanuel recently approved $3.7 million in TIF funds for a corporation that tests pharmaceuticals on animal subjects. The mayor said the money would help keep 26 jobs in Chicago.
The workers are asking for less than a third of the amount to save four times as many jobs; a more cost effective maneuver.
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