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The Big Bad Unions!

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It’s all because of the unions!  That’s right everyone, the big bad unions have swooped into the village and are throwing their extremely large, corrupt weight around in attempt to take over control of the village – and next, the world!  Seriously, the village board has already claimed to me (when i confronted 2 of my trustees by letter about these cuts, shockingly I got a form letter back, and still haven’t received the phone call that I requested) that their reductions have come as a result of the various negotiations with the unions in the village.  Police didn’t bow to the village’s demands, and they had to pay for it somehow, and OMG the fire union is holding the village to what it agreed to – so the trustees have to reduce service there!  Of course, the public works union just bent over and took what the village gave them without a fight – and even they lost 9 for that.

You see, the problem is – it’s easy to blame public employee unions for the blight of the village.  The employees tend to have more steady wages, and are often backed by laws that force the village to negotiate over certain items.  However, I hope that the residents will see past the very easy scapegoat.  The fact is, every year the wages of the non-union employees go up – and often times as much or MORE than the union employees.  And the village’s response to these non-union employees is to hire more of them!  Something doesn’t quite add up.  Every year, the size of the budget grows – not unreasonably, 1-2% depending on the year – but this is completely in line with other villages, and let’s not forget that the past few years have been marked by surprisingly upbeat and healthy audits by outside companies.  (Is this because they’ve cut the essential departments back so much, or because the revenues have rebounded to pre-recession amounts?  Someone smarter than me can go through the budgets and say!)  In short – the village isn’t hurting for money.

When we as residents look at our budget and see that we are making more money every year, and yet we still live paycheck to paycheck – what do we do?  Naturally, we cut our food budget and our housing budget, but leave in tact the cell phone, cable, internet, cadillacs and Dining out budgets, right?  NO!  We prioritize and recognize that improper spending is just as much of a problem as low income.  The village has a healthy audit and has a healthy revenue stream coming in.  The fact is – the priorities of the village board are off – and they need some straightening out.  Example: Is it really necessary to have 13 employees (including part time)  in the community development department at a time when we are reducing essential public safety departments and NO new businesses are moving in?  How many of us think those code enforcement officers are doing a good job – and more importantly, that the department is well trained and managed?  And why would our village board have hired a Director of Community Development that had been FIRED by Park Ridge when he was their Village Manager?  Can ANYONE explain that?  Any more questions about this: http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20130821/news/708219925/ .  Hell, they weren’t even responsible for getting Walmart into town – that was Frank Scarpelli!  And do we really need an assistant public works director – or an assistant finance director?  Cut the paper-pushers and leave my police and fire services alone!

But, I digress!  Getting back to the subject, as residents, we need to realize that the unions in this town are probably somewhat different from those that we are used to hearing about.  When the unions in town talk about their “local” they aren’t talking about 70,000 members in the chicago area.  They are talking about 32 members or 71 members – the actual employees.  Their members are people that live in this community with us – and who have taken a public Oath of Office, to serve and protect the citizens of this town.  And lets get down to the nitty-gritty.  A union of employees exists to protect their interests from being degraded by the employer.  Their interest is their member’s safety, benefits and compensation.  Their goal is to make sure that the members (full time employees) are paid comparatively to other towns of similar size, population and call volume, and are afforded the proper safety protections, and to get as much job security as possible.  And reasonable people will ensure that both sides (village vs union) work together to determine a fair and equitable outcome for both sides – a “partnership” of sorts.  After all, retention of well trained and dedicated professionals in the fire and police department is also a positive for the village residents.  And in case anyone wants to call me out on that argument, it’s the same argument used by the Village Trustees to justify the myriad of raises they’ve handed out to department heads and managers.  The reality is that when the village says their reductions are a result of the unions – it’s probably not far off to say that the village didn’t exactly approach the negotiation as a partnership between 2 interested sides.  I would LOVE to learn what actually happened during those negotiations!  Unfortunately though, I can guess what kind of garbage a FOIA to the village would turn up, and I can’t FOIA the union, so, as residents, I guess we’ll never know.  But, let’s not forget that in 2010 the Village won an award from one of the municipal leagues for it’s negotiations with the Fire Department Union in which the village got significant concessions for a no-layoff clause.  The management team (Lead by Chief Schuldt) and the union sat down during one of the worst economic downturns and worked out a deal that was equitable for both sides – The way the process is supposed to work.  Source: http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20110316/news/703169855/  Clearly the Firefighters are willing to approach the village as a partnership.  It’s more likely that the village negotiators (Lead directly by Manager Rooney this time) viewed it more like 2 gladiators fighting it out to bitter bloody end.  And if that’s how the negotiations went – well, we as residents aren’t going to end up in a good position.

What’s the point?  Talk is cheap, and so are the reasons that this Village Board is giving for the Service Reductions they’ve put into place.  But remember – it’s not a service reduction, it’s a new “staffing model.”  Wouldn’t everyone’s lives be easier if we could come up with unique ways to spin every mistake we make using catchy Bull-Shit phrases like “staffing model.”

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