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Chicago Park District workers reach tentative contract agreement

A work stoppage would have drastically scaled back options for Chicago Public School parents in case of a teachers strike.

Jeffrey Howard, executive vice president of SEIU 73, announces an agreement between the Chicago Park District and more than 2,500 parks employees.
Jeffrey Howard, executive vice president of SEIU 73, announces an agreement between the Chicago Park District and more than 2,500 parks employees.
Sam Charles/Sun-Times

Chicago Park District employees have reached a tentative contract agreement, averting a strike as the Chicago Teachers Union is set to walk out Thursday.

“We have achieved, what we think, is a great victory,” said Service Employees International Union Local 73 Executive Vice President Jeffrey Howard.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot later told reporters at City Hall that the deal would span 4 1/2 years and included a 14.25% pay raise for full-time workers. The mayor said hourly recreational leaders would be bumped up to a $15-per-hour wage.

Asked what changed in the last week after the park workers appeared headed for a strike, Park District Supt. Michael Kelly said that “at some point, it becomes collegiality and wanting to get a deal done.”

“This is a very proud day for us,” Kelly said.

Park District Supt. Mike Kelly said at a City Hall news conference where he discussed the deal reached with union employees.
“This is a very proud day for us,” Park District Supt. Mike Kelly said at a City Hall news conference where he discussed the deal reached with union employees.
Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

The deal reached late Tuesday evening also includes paid vacation to hourly employees based on the number of hours worked, the city said.

Howard said the agreement brought “significant raises and benefits,” especially for part-time workers. He added that the deal “makes significant progress to make sure that all park jobs are jobs where workers can earn family-sustaining wages.”

SEIU 73 represents over 2,500 Park District landscape laborers, special recreation workers, attendants, instructors, recreational leaders, supervisors and other workers from over 250 parks.

One of the key issues in the negotiations was health care costs. The union contended the district wanted employees to pay twice what they pay now. The tentative agreement will see workers pay an additional 1.5% over the next three years toward their health care costs.

A work stoppage, the Park District previously said, would have drastically scaled back the resources available to Chicago Public Schools parents during a Chicago Teachers Union strike that’s set to start Thursday.

Though the Park District employees’ contract has been settled, SEIU 73 is still in negotiations with the school district on behalf of about 7,500 CPS staff employees. Those contract talks fell apart Wednesday, and the schools staff was set to strike with teachers Thursday morning.

“We stand united with the teachers and the public schools staff who are taking action for the fight for good jobs that our communities need,” Howard said. “This is the power of unions.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot joining Chicago Park District Supt. Michael Kelly and others at City Hall.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot joined Chicago Park District Supt. Michael Kelly and others at City Hall to announce a deal had been reached with parks employees.
Fran Spielman/Sun-Times