Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Union workers’ raises in jeopardy

Next year’s budget deficit already is estimated at $3 million, but officials believe the menacing figure likely will get worse for Evanston City Council once renegotiation of union contracts begins in December.

Several aldermen have already mentioned reducing city employees’ raises as a tool for helping balance the budget by March 1.

That does not sit well with union representatives — and likely will raise the ire of non-union workers, whose raises already were decreased last year to help fix the current budget.

Raymond Summers, president of the local chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, said he is not sure whether the deficit problem is as bad as City Manager Roger Crum has said it is.

When Crum presented his initial budget estimates to City Council earlier this month, he told aldermen the $3 million deficit was just a “status-quo” figure that did not account for any employee raises.

For example, with an average increase of 2 percent in wages, the deficit would increase to $4 million. And a 5 percent raise would mean a $5.6 million deficit problem.

“Quite naturally (balancing the budget) would be a difficult process,” Summers said. “But that does not take away from the fact that all employees should be given fair wages and affordable health care.”

To balance the budget last year, aldermen voted to give non-union employees an average 2 percent raise rather than the proposed 4 percent. But since union contracts are set in stone until early 2003, the council couldn’t change raises for unionized workers — who make up about half of the city’s 770-plus employees.

Before the budget is passed in February, every union’s contract will be up in the air, including AFSCME and the police and firefighters unions.

Crum’s proposal for a balanced budget is due to the council on Jan. 1, after union negotiations begin. But the budget plan will be drafted too early to incorporate the negotiations’ outcomes, he said.

“That’s always a problem,” Crum said. “You have to make a guess on what kind of increases there will be.”

Crum said a contingency fund will be created to allow for various cost-of-living wage increases.

Ted Loda, the Evanston AFSCME representative, said he has no expectations for how this year’s renegotiation process will go.

In past renegotiation years, AFSCME has informed the city on Dec. 1 that it is ready to begin.

“I don’t want to characterize the process at this point,” Loda said. “Procedurally we schedule meetings (with the city), and that is our plan at this time.”

Loda said AFSCME represents more than 170 of the city’s unionized workers, more than half of whom live in Evanston.

“These are Evanston residents who pay taxes in Evanston,” Loda said. “It’s to the benefit of any community that the individuals within that community have the ability to buy goods and services.”

Summers said he hopes to see a more accurate presentation of the deficit within the next week, which would help union workers gauge the situation.

“I’m certain (the city has) been working on getting the numbers more in line with what the alleged deficit is,” he said. “Once we get more accurate figures, we’ll be able to see if concern is necessary at all.”

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Union workers’ raises in jeopardy