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Chicago Teamsters reject Rahm Emanuel’s bid for contract concessions on 461-11 vote

Teamsters boss John Coli (right) endorsing Rahm Emanuel for mayor Jan. 25 2011. I  Sun-Times files

Teamsters boss John Coli (right) endorsing Rahm Emanuel for mayor on Jan. 25, 2011. I Sun-Times files

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Updated: October 29, 2013 6:06AM

Already feuding with police, firefighters, teachers and other public employees, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration sought but failed to win concessions this week from the only major labor group that had supported Emanuel’s election.

Teamsters union members overwhelmingly rejected a proposal from the mayor’s office, which went down by a 461-11 margin at a meeting Thursday, sources told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Becky Strzachowski, president of Teamsters Local 700 — which represents thousands of city, state and other public employees — did not immediately return calls seeking comment Friday. Strzachowski is a protege of John Coli, the Teamsters boss for the Chicago area who, alone among major union leaders, endorsed Emanuel for mayor in 2011.

The Emanuel administration offered to add 121 Teamsters members to the city payroll in exchange for a long list of concessions, documents obtained by the Sun-Times show. The proposed changes included removing Teamsters from Water Management Department crews that also include laborers and hoisting engineers.

Some of the Teamsters who voted against the changes said they feared they would be giving up work to hoisting engineers. Their union did not back Emanuel’s election. Nic Acciari, a truck driver for the Streets and Sanitation Department, noted that the Teamsters were among the trade unions that signed 10-year deals with then-Mayor Richard M. Daley in 2007.

“They want to take away our traditional work,” Acciari said. “Who’s to say that doesn’t open the floodgates? We have a contract through 2016. Why would anyone want to open up a 10-year agreement that was the best thing that happened to us?”

Acciari and other drivers said Local 700 leaders did not explain the administration’s proposal before calling for a vote.

“The city is disappointed that the membership of Local 700 voted against this opportunity to fill 121 city jobs while providing opportunities to increase operational efficiency,” Emanuel spokeswoman Kelley Quinn said Friday.

Shortly after taking office, Emanuel had a confrontation with organized labor over his demand for work-rule changes to replace morale-killing furlough days. ­Labor leaders who hadn’t supported Emanuel when he was ­running for mayor stood their ground, prompting layoffs. The mayor later second-guessed the strident tone he took with labor during that ­early test.

“I could have let that process be more quiet here at this table,” Emanuel said in an interview on the anniversary of his first year in office. “You could argue that I could have done it different. Labor could have done it different. I’m responsible for what I do.”

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