OIG Review of the City’s Collective Bargaining Agreements

This year, the City and its unionized workforce will negotiate new collective bargaining agreements (CBAs). The terms and conditions of employment for over 90 percent of the more than 30,000 City workers, ranging from salary schedules and vacation policies to staffing rules and disciplinary procedures, will be on the table. Such an opportunity to reassess the existing agreements and to negotiate CBAs that reflect both the immense value of Chicago’s unionized public servants and the fiscal realities confronting the City has not presented itself in a long while. Indeed, more than two-thirds of the current CBAs took effect nearly ten years ago, in July 2007. Given the intervening economic upheaval, as well as the technological advances and other operational changes that inevitably transpire across such a long stretch of time, the 2017 CBA negotiations constitute a crucial moment for the parties to address, in a creative and collaborative fashion, the myriad challenges and opportunities facing the City. To be sure, this is a complex and difficult project. Contract negotiations are largely adversarial by nature, with each side seeking the best deal for itself. Here, however, in the public sector, it is incumbent on both management and labor to acknowledge the presence of a third party with a powerful interest in the outcome; namely, the people of Chicago. The people rightfully expect the City and its unions to negotiate contracts designed both to protect public funds by eliminating waste and optimizing efficiency, and to reward and incentivize public service by providing fair compensation and treating workers with respect.

In this report, we describe recently expired and soon to expire City CBAs, noting the impact of some current provisions and suggesting where amendments may improve economy, effectiveness, and integrity. OIG takes no position on the relative merits of any particular change to the existing agreements. We acknowledge that negotiations are elaborate endeavors involving many discrete and intertwining issues, and that the process cannot work if, from the outset, particular positions are set in stone. However, so long as a term is not subject to outside legal constraints, it should be fair game for discussion and compromise, with the end result being contracts that reflect our values, and are consonant with our shared responsibility to be careful stewards of taxpayer resources and to serve the interests of the community.

Finally, while the suggestions we present below manifest OIG’s robust commitment to driving meaningful and comprehensive reform in the provision of public services wherever the opportunity exists, we understand that it may not be realistic to expect the parties to achieve across-the-board reform in a single round of bargaining. We do not intend to imply otherwise. We offer this report to aid the proceedings by identifying contract elements that warrant particularly careful consideration by the parties and close scrutiny by City Council, and to serve the public interest by providing a general overview of what is at stake in the negotiations.