Emanuel tries to get handle on library closing flap

Arts and CultureLibrariesJobs and WorkplaceAFSCMEUnionsChicago Public LibraryChicago Mayor

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Friday sought to get a handle on the flap over imminent Monday closings of Chicago Public Library branches, saying the move is necessary because union leaders haven't agreed to an alternate idea to cut hours at the libraries.

The mayor's comments came after the plan to shutter the city's more than 70 branch libraries on most Mondays was announced quietly this week. It drew the ire of aldermen who had endorsed a proposal to instead trim library hours on most Monday and Friday mornings.

Emanuel said he shares aldermen's frustration, but pointed the finger at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The union must agree to the half-day library closings, which could mean six-day workweeks, and has not yet done so.

“I didn't support this, and I don't want it,” Emanuel said of Monday closings. “That's why I came up with a flexible — and aldermen came up and agreed to — a flexible proposal. Labor has to be that partner.”

Beginning Monday, 172 library employees were laid off to save the city more than $3 million this year, leaving the libraries enough workers to operate 40 hours per week instead of 48 hours.

Anders Lindall, spokesman for AFSCME Local 31, said the union hasn't rejected the city's plan to cut Monday and Friday hours rather than closing altogether Mondays. But Lindall said the union has been trying to make the case that the city has the money available to reinstate those employees and not cut any hours.

“I don't think the concern of the people of Chicago is how their library access can be reduced over two days per week or one day,” Lindall said. “It should be a priority to make sure library access isn't reduced at all.”

Speaking at a news conference about an ongoing program to fight mortgage foreclosures in some of the city's hardest-hit neighborhoods, Emanuel said negotiations with AFSCME are ongoing to try to reach a compromise.

“The bad news: Monday's coming fast,” he said. “I expect labor, and that is AFSCME particularly, to help solve this problem. They knew during the budget discussions what we were going to do.”

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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