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Stroger puts union employees on notice

Tuesday, January 08, 2008
Chicago Tribune
by Mickey Ciokajlo

In an unusual move, the Stroger administration has sent notices to Cook County's employee unions warning that layoffs are coming and casting the blame on commissioners who reject the tax increases in his stalled budget.

Some of the nine board members singled out by name for opposing "new revenues" called the notices a scare tactic and said they are counterproductive to working out a budget deal with Board President Todd Stroger, who has failed to win passage of a 2-percentage-point increase in the sales tax.

The notice does not say how many employees would be laid off. Stroger's chief of staff, Lance Tyson, said the notices are the first step and that it will take two to three weeks for the administration to evaluate where the cuts would fall.

Anders Lindall, a union spokesman, called the letter "factually inaccurate," noting some of the nine commissioners have supported new revenue although they oppose Stroger's sales-tax increase.

"We have never seen a layoff letter like this one that attempts to pin the blame for potential job cuts on specific commissioners," said Lindall, spokesman for the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees Council 31.

The Stroger administration should stop the "false pressure tactics" and work constructively with the board to reach a compromise, Lindall said. The board has until the end of February to pass a budget.

County Commissioner Forrest Claypool (D-Chicago), one of the board members cited in the letter, said Stroger is "clearly playing politics with the budget" and trying to "use fear and misinformation to gain advantage."

County Commissioner Mike Quigley (D-Chicago), who also opposes Stroger's sales tax, called the notice letter "brinksmanship" designed to pressure board members.

"They have run out of ideas," Quigley said.

"They can't come up with a plan. They can't get more than six votes to do anything right now and this budget process runs the risk of running to the last minute without any solution."

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