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Union president re-elected

Updated: April 13, 2014 6:24AM



Chicago firefighters and paramedics have a history of changing union presidents about as often as Imelda Marcos changes shoes.

On Tuesday, they broke the mold and stayed the course.

A chronically ornery rank and file re-elected Tom Ryan to a third three-year term as president of the Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2. The entire executive board was re-elected along with Ryan.

Ryan beat back a challenge from Engine 113 Capt. Joel Burns, who is one of a handful of colorful Chicagoans featured in CNN’s eight-part reality miniseries “Chicagoland.”

In a video posted on his campaign website, Burns accused Ryan of being too passive in his opposition to the cost-saving operational and pension concessions Mayor Rahm Emanuel is seeking.

Chicago firefighters have been without a contract since the old one expired on June 30, 2012.

Next year, state law requires the city to make a $600 million contribution to stabilize police and fire pension funds that now have assets to cover just 30.5 and 25 percent of their respective liabilities.

Before the results were tallied, Ryan acknowledged that the long wait for a new contract is “always an issue” with his members. But, he said, “Look at the track record. Every contract is at least 18 months in arrears.”

Two years ago, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Emanuel was seeking a laundry list of givebacks from Chicago firefighters that take aim at such treasured union perks as: holiday and duty availability pay; clothing allowance; pay grades; premium pay; non-duty lay-up coverage; the physical fitness incentive and the 7 percent premium paid to cross-trained firefighter-paramedics.

The mayor’s plan did not include closing fire stations. But it would alter the minimum manning requirement that triggered the bitter 1980 firefighters strike.

The current contract requires that every piece of fire apparatus be staffed by at least five employees. Emanuel’s plan calls for all “double houses” that include both engines and trucks to be staffed by nine firefighters instead of 10.

Email: fspielman@suntimes.com

Twitter: @fspielman



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