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Union says lifeguard shortages persist as Chicago Park District plans to open pools

Chicago pools set to open, but union warns of staffing shortages
Chicago pools set to open, but union warns of staffing shortages 00:29

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The City of Chicago has said it is planning to open its pools this Friday, June 23.

But the union that represents 2,800 Chicago Park District workers says there are still staffing shortages – including shortages of lifeguards.

The union entered contract negotiations with the Chicago Park District on Wednesday, and is asking for higher wages.

"We are hopeful we can quickly reach a fair and equitable contract for the workers who keep Chicago's parks, pools, and beaches safe and maintained for everyone who enjoy them," SEIU Local 73 Executive Vice President Jeffrey Howard said in a news release. "These essential workers provide a vital service to our communities. They worked throughout the pandemic to keep facilities safe for the public. They deserve to be respected, protected, and paid for their service."

"While our pools and beaches may be opening on Friday, the Park District still has staffing shortages," Adolfo Flores, Natatorium Instructor at 12th Street Beach said in the release. "The modest $600 training bonus for new lifeguards fails to address the long-term wage improvements needed for recruitment and retention. The average hourly pay for lifeguards is just over $16. New York City increased its hourly pay to $21.26 for first and second-year lifeguards with an additional $1,000 bonus. It's time for the Chicago Park District to respect us, protect us, and pay us."

We have reached out to the Park District for response.

Meanwhile Wednesday, the Park District did tell us final hiring steps – including required training – will be completed this week in anticipation of the opening date Friday.

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