Sleeping on the job, a collective bargaining benefit in Chicago

Chicago's Inspector General Joseph Ferguson uncovered a vivid example why government unions so desperately fight to retain collective bargaining--and why now broke, with some help from these unions--government leaders want to eliminate it.

Periodically the media in Chicago erupt with still yet another amazing report of city workers loafing on the job. But they're wrong, they're not loafing, they're working. Hard. It is in their government employee union contract. Just another benefit of collective bargaining.

In the latest scandal, coming at the voluntary end of Mayor Richard J. Daley's 20+ year reign,

drivers the inspector's general office identified as doing nothing more than taking other workers to job sites and waiting while those workers do their assigned tasks, according to the report.

That's all the drivers do--they drive other city workers or equipment to a work location--and then they return them. The drivers

transport personnel and equipment to job sites and then merely wait - generally getting paid to do nothing more than sit in a vehicle - while other city personnel perform various tasks," the report states.

Very boring to be sure, so some sleep, some eat, play cards. But...they are working.

Hard working Chicagoans, still innocent after all these years of hearing about padded payrolls and corruption in the city, the county of Cook (often referred to, with good reason, as Crook County) and state, innocently complain.

the inspector general's office had received nearly 200 complaints since 2006 "about city truck drivers loafing or sleeping on the job," the report said.

But, as mentioned, they weren't loafing or sleeping. They were working. It is in the contract. A ten year contract incidentally. With good pay and benefits without the cost of going to college.

After two years on the job, they earn nearly $34 an hour, before health insurance and other benefits are added on to bring the yearly cost of each driver to nearly $90,000.
So, why don't the well paid government workers also drive the truck? Why is a separate driver needed?

The main reason for the extra truck drivers is a city contract with Teamsters Local 700 that makes it very difficult, and in the case of contractors nearly impossible, to transfer driving responsibilities to other employees, according to the report. The 10-year contract does not expire until June 2017.

And why did the oh so experienced mayor agree to such an inefficient, money wasting contract? Because he was held hostage to his ego.

Mayor Richard Daley entered long-term contracts with the city's unions in 2007 to eliminate any chance of labor strife as Chicago launched its ultimately unsuccessful bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics. City revenues peaked that year.

Luckily Chicago lost its Olympic bid despite Daley's all out effort; it went to the slightly more crime ridden, slightly slummier Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

But the complainants just don't understand. Having separate drivers who do nothing else is really cost effective according to Chicago officialdom.

In a statement, city Budget Director Eugene Munin said the inspector general's "suffers from a fundamental lack of understanding of the nature of collective bargaining" and that the Daley administration has been able to save money by developing flexible scheduling, lower salaries during drivers' first two years on the job, and keeping injured drivers off disability.


As Daley's successor, Rahm Emanuel, once stated "Never let a serious crisis go to waste. What I mean by that is it's an opportunity to do things you couldn't do before." And Daley has left plenty of crises for Emanuel. With a billion dollar budget deficit, generous city worker contracts, rising crime and other problems it will be interesting to see if Emanuel can take advantage of this opportunity to do things that couldn't be done before--and undo some of Daley's profligate legacy.