April 16, 2009
Chicago sanitation workers are up in arms about the city’s possible purchase of up to 200 automated, side-loading collection trucks. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the move would likely lead to substantial lay-offs, as trucks currently run with three-man crews (one driver and two collection workers). The automated trucks require only a driver operating a cart-lifting arm from the cab. Chicago Streets and Sanitation officials say the trucks would give them more flexibility in operations.
Union leaders say automation would not only be bad for collection workers, but also represent a "drastic" reduction in services for Chicagoans. Automated trucks only collect trash in cans, whereas currently, loose trash and bulky items are collected by hand. Moreover, questions have been raised about the trucks’ performance in trials around the city. For its part, the city says the purchase is far from a done deal (it recently put out a “request-for-quotations,” but expects to spend around $40 million) and that it currently has no plans to cut its labor force.