Excerpts from the ChicagoSun-Times.com:
Jim Tracy, a veteran business agent, beat out former Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2 President Dan Fabrizio for the open seat vacated by the retirement of three-term union president Tom Ryan. Both candidates were union insiders and members of the executive board. Jim Tracy was the 4th District business agent. Fabrizio was in charge of political action.
His campaign poster highlights nine promises that include: providing immediate relief for 300 retired members without Medicare or other health insurance; putting five more advanced life support ambulances in service; restoring the paramedic clothing allowance so they can buy a bulletproof vest; and establishing a paramedicine division of the Fire Prevention Bureau.
He also promised to: stop runaway legal bills suddenly an extra $300,000-a-year; allow retired members ages 60 to 63 to rescind their furloughs for their buyout; lower the threshold to 25 years of service to earn a so-called Grandpa Day, awarded as an extra furlough day to the most senior members (it is now 26 or 27 years); activate a post-retirement medical savings plan; get firefighters and paramedics out of the Chicago Healthy Lives Program.
The poster also brands as inexcusable, ill-advised or disappointing decisions made by the Ryan regime or under the retiring president’s watch. They include: prosecuting seven union members; not bringing a 16 percent raise to the board, and not going to arbitration to get our pension millions of dollars owed.
The changing of the guard at Local 2 comes at a time when the union is gearing up to negotiate another contract.
Five years ago, Emanuel took aim at treasured union perks that included the clothing allowance; holiday and duty-availability pay; pay grades; premium pay; non-duty lay-up coverage; a physical fitness incentive and a 7 percent premium paid to cross-trained firefighter-paramedics.
The mayor subsequently backed away from all of those concession demands in a pre-election contract that won him the surprise endorsement of Local 2, a union that had endorsed mayoral challenger Gery Chico over Emanuel in 2011.
The contract that expires June 30 called for Chicago firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians to get an 11 percent pay raise over five years, but ended free health care for those who retire between the ages of 55 and 65.
Ryan returned the favor by signing on to a deal that gave Chicago 15 more years to ramp up to a 90 percent funding level for police and fire pensions. Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed that bill. But three Republican crossover votes helped Emanuel overturn the governor’s veto.
Now, Emanuel is under pressure to get tough with the union again.
Last year, Inspector General Joe Ferguson concluded that Chicago taxpayers were shelling out $5 million a year to provide a uniform allowance to firefighters that’s more like an automatic cash bonus because it’s completely unmoored from any determination of actual need or use.
Ald. Nick Sposato (38th), a former Chicago firefighter, noted that the minimum-manning requirement that triggered the 1980 firefighters strike will not expire until 2019. All other aspects of the union contract will be negotiated this year.