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Chicago Park District union authorizes strike, asks mayor to intervene in contract talks

Union workers at Chicago Park District authorize strike
Union workers at Chicago Park District authorize strike 00:26

CHICAGO (CBS) -- After voting to authorize a strike, the union representing more than 2,200 Chicago Park District workers planned to deliver a petition to Mayor Brandon Johnson on Tuesday, asking him to step in where they claim Park District management has stalled.

SEIU Local 73 said an overwhelming majority of its members voted to authorize a strike last week, after talks on a new contract stalled.

The union claimed management has given no written responses to its contract proposals at the last three bargaining sessions, and has made little movement on its top demands.

SEIU said Park District workers are seeking pay raises for all staff, a $20 per hour starting wage for park jobs, access to health insurance for all Park District staff, more full-time positions, and a fair and transparent promotion process.

"Nearly two-thirds of Chicago Park District workers are part-time and receive no health insurance coverage," said Joann Baker, a landscaping foreman for the Park District foor 19 years. "We have nearly 500 vacant positions. Why? Because surviving on a little more than $16 an hour is far from a living wage for an individual, let alone someone providing for their family. Many of my co-workers are forced to work multiple jobs to pay rent and put food on the table. It's not right."

A vote has been scheduled for next week to determine when a strike could begin, and how long it could last.

The union has scheduled a rally at City Hall on Tuesday, when they plan to deliver a petition to the mayor's office, asking Johnson to intervene in contract negotiations to help reach a fair settlement. 

In a statement, a Park District spokesperson said, "The Chicago Park District values its workforce and the work they perform daily to support our parks and the children and families that rely on our services."

 "The District continues to engage SEIU to negotiate in good faith with the goal of a successor contract that meets the needs and interests of our dedicated employees and the District as well as residents and Chicago taxpayers as a whole. We have taken great strides over the last several years to create a supportive workplace culture for our team and park users. We look forward to continuing good faith negotiations and arriving at an agreement in the very near future," Park District spokeswoman Irene Tostado said.

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