Chicago tree trimmers show during a destructive storm why there are none better

Chicago Sun-Times

Aldermen have accused city tree trimmers of being “inefficient,” but on Monday and Tuesday they responded to 925 emergency complaints in less than 24 hours.

Last month, Ald. Scott Waguespack, 32nd, was quoted by a local newspaper as saying: “We maintain an inefficient tree-trimming system, lose trees due to disease and opaque removal processes, and reinforce long-standing inequities in the delivery of city services.”

Waguespack was piggybacking on a 2019 report by City Inspector General Joe Ferguson that said the city could save up to 60% on the average cost of trimming a tree. Waguespack and Aldermen George Cardenas, 12th, and Samantha Nugent, 39th, want to create a board to run a better forestry program.

So where are the aldermen now? Here’s a novel idea: How about the three of them take a walk out their front doors and look at the devastation caused by Monday’s storm. Maybe talk to their constituents. Who has been out there cleaning up their wards?

Must be the men and women of those “inefficient” city crews. Right, aldermen?

Men and women who have been working 16-hour days. Who have been using heavy, high-powered chain saws, chippers and lifts to cut and remove trees blocking streets all across the city. Who are exhausted but still on the job because they are dedicated to the city they live in and work for.

That’s right — every one of them lives in Chicago. They are not out-of-town contractors who have no stake in the city except on pay day. And, speaking of that, maybe someone should explain to the aldermen how the union that represents these men and women won the work several years back because city forestry workers come substantially cheaper than any private contractor.

Monday’s storm created more than 3,600 emergency tree requests. All city forestry crews were on deck well into the night. Men and women who have families waiting for them to come home safely. Men and women who have been at work every day since the pandemic began because they are deemed “essential workers” by the city and therefore not covered by the federal Family First Coronavirus Response Act, which all forestry contractors are.

In other words, these Chicago workers could not receive paid time off to care for family members and children out of school.

While many other people have been on pandemic lock-down, these Chicago workers have continued to report to work and do what they do best, serve the residents of Chicago. And on Monday, like on every other day, they did.

That’s right, aldermen, these inefficient city tree trimmers responded to 925 emergency complaints in less than 24 hours, though they were understaffed and exhausted.

Instead of criticizing them, maybe you should be out there thanking them. Maybe you should stop playing politics with people’s lives. And if this truly is about money, then do your homework — no one is cheaper and better at what they do than the City of Chicago tree trimmers, period.

Give them the resources and manpower they need and deserve and they will show you why they are the best in the business.

Thanks to all the city tree trimmers. Your hard work and dedication does not go unnoticed. Keep up the good work and be safe.

Bob Chianelli
Assistant Business Manager
LiUNA Local Union 1001