THANKS TO THE GENERAL LABORER!

From its humble beginnings in 1937 Laborers Local 1001 has always represented the hardworking men and women who work for the City of Chicago.

In the early days “City Workers” were looked upon as not only public servants but also political soldiers. Most, if not all, of the members were hired through political organizations and for very modest wages. Because collective bargaining agreements were prohibited by law, the members of Local 1001 were all “at will” employees and their bargaining power was very limited.

As the Union became more and more involved and the members began to realize the potential of what a Union could be, Local 1001 became an integral part of what is today’s City of Chicago municipal workforce.

In the mid 90’s the Leadership of Local 1001 had the foresight to work with the City to create an entry level position called “Junior Laborers”, which eventually morphed into what many of our current members may remember as “Hand Laborers”. These positions created an opportunity for many to join the City workforce on an entry level as “at will” employees, without any promise of ever having a permanent Career Service status and having limited health-care, no paid holidays or paid vacation. Hundreds of the current Sanitation Laborers were hired this way and were limited to advancement only through negotiations.

In January of 2011 the City was in dire financial trouble and began the process of privatization of residential Recycling trash pickup, opening the door for further privatization in areas of residential trash pickup, forestry and many other positions represented by Local 1001.

Unfortunately, even with a new Mayor of the City of Chicago in early 2012, the cost of regular residential trash pickup was becoming cost prohibitive. Non-Union vendors were circling like vultures waiting to swoop in and with no financial rescue in site most observers knew it was only a matter of time before the City would have no choice but to privatize the work. Friendly political forces began to talk to Local 1001 about the not so bright picture of what may be on the horizon and the fact that our members may now be facing the inevitable, permanent layoffs.

Over the next several weeks the City and the Union met to discuss what could be done to save the hundreds of jobs that would be on the line if household trash pickup were lost.

The City’s position was that although a temporary furlough and or freeze may have worked just a few years earlier it unfortunately was not a long-term solution and would not work this time.

Local 1001 had always been known as one of the Local’s in Chicago that thinks outside of the box so the wheels began turning. Almost three months into the process Local 1001 brought an idea to the City, “What if you could continue to offer the same level of service, continue to hire employees that were not only Veteran’s but Chicago Public School graduates and best of all lower operating costs by a total of almost 30 million dollars over the next 5 years, would you do it?” The City’s Budget Director and the Mayor himself had a unified response “We will sign today”.

And so was born the General Laborer. Over the next few weeks the language was finalized and on May 1, 2012 Mayor Emanuel and Local 1001 jointly announced a plan to hire at least 300 new General Laborers in the Department of Streets and Sanitation over the next 5 years.

In the fall of 2012 the City’s Bureau of Forestry began the process of bidding out a good portion of the City’s forestry work to private contractors. Because of what the new General Laborer title had brought to the table the work was kept in-house. Thus, eliminating the proposed privatization in the Bureau of Forestry and keeping every one of Local 1001’s members working.

In the months to come the City received a $5 million grant to do tree inoculation and was in the process of issuing a RFP. With such a proven track record, Local 1001 contacted the City’s Budget Department and asked to take the work in-house and have it done by the new General Laborers. We are proud to say that we were awarded the work and there are now over 60 General Laborers who are certified in the inoculation process.

Today, as some of our initial General Laborers now reach Career Service status, we would like to congratulate them and thank them for all their hard work and service that has transformed a concept to save hundreds of jobs, into a reality that has not only preserved jobs, reinforced all our pensions, and helped create hundreds of jobs for our brothers and sisters in one of the worst economies of our lifetime.

We are also proud to report that since the first class of General Laborers was graduated from the Chicagoland Laborers Training Center, your Union has created over 50 new prevailing wage positions for the General Laborer’s to advance to prior to even becoming Career Service. And as of August 2016, we have now surpassed the 300 General Laborer hire, more than a year ahead of schedule.

It is because of you, the General Laborer, that our Union and our City has stayed on course and with your continued hard work and support there is a bright future ahead for all the members of LiUNA Local 1001.

We know this does not get said enough but, Thank You General Laborers!