Brutal winter conditions breaks down snow fighting equipment


CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

This brutal winter is damaging more than just our spirit.

It's also breaking down lots of snow-fighting equipment owned by the state.

In fact the union that represents IDOT maintenance workers is warning of big potential problems as crews scramble to keep up with repairs.

With another round of snow and subzero cold in the forecast for Tuesday, workers at an Illinois Department of Transportation maintenance yard in Hillside headed home Monday evening to get some much needed rest.

The question on their minds is will they be able to rely on the equipment they'll need to keep the roads clear?

"If a plow can't be fixed or serviced, it can't go out on the road to clear the way for motorists. At best this is inefficient, but at worst it's potentially unsafe," Aviva Bowen said.

Bowen, of the Illinois Federation of Public Employees, which represents IDOT maintenance workers in Cook County, said maintenance on IDOT plows and snow removal equipment has fallen far behind this brutal winter.

For instance at IDOT's Rodenburg yard in Schaumburg, Bowen said 15 of the 22 plows were inoperable last week because of maintenance issues.

Additionally, the union said there are only 22 mechanics to service more than 400 trucks that IDOT maintains in Cook County.

It's gotten so bad IDOT recently called in 30 mechanics from the Illinois National Guard to help make emergency repairs to snow fighting equipment.

The union accuses IDOT of allowing the number of mechanics to slip below acceptable staffing levels.

"Some of it is old equipment and some of it is regular maintenance. But the problem exists year round. These trucks are always used, and so if there aren't enough mechanics year round to do preventative maintenance, repairs become more urgent," Bowen said.

However, IDOT tells a different story.

It said right now all but three plows at that Schaumburg yard are operable.

"These historic conditions did strain our vehicles, but at no point did we have an insufficient number to keep the roads cleared and salted. In District 1 (Cook County area), there were 440 trucks to cover 370 routes," IDOT said.

IDOT said it has more 1,700 trucks assigned to snow duty across the state and nearly 3,700 employees working to clear the snow.

However its spokesman admits using the National Guard to repair trucks is not a common occurrence, and calls this winter the worst Illinois has experienced in 20 years.

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"Right to Work" is wrong

In their most aggressive move yet, the National Right to Work Foundation (NRTWF), an organization funded by billionaire CEO’s and corporations, is reaching out directly to our members in an effort to weaken our union. You may have received their “teacher refund” mailings or calls in the last several weeks.

Working closely with the American Legislative Exchange Commission (ALEC), they are spearheading attacks meant to silence our voices at work and in Springfield so that corporate interests can take away our ability to advocate for students and our professions through the collective power of our unions. They want to: eliminate collective bargaining; take away our pensions; restrict our workplace rights; privatize education and public services; and give tax breaks to corporations and the rich.

They claim that “right-to-work” laws are good for workers, businesses, and communities, but studies show just the opposite. In fact, these laws drive down wages, eliminate benefits, and cause job loss. NRTWF isn't trying to protect you, they're trying to bust unions and get richer.

"Right-to-work" is simply wrong. As union leaders, we need your help to educate and engage others on this critical issue. Here are a few simple tools and suggestions to help you do that in your union and your community:

  • Have conversations about right to work with members, family, and friends. Put "right to work" on the agenda for your next membership meeting. Discuss it over coffee with friends. Post about it on social media. Tell everyone you know why “right-to-work” is wrong and how unions help keep our communities strong.
  • “Return to sender.” Encourage your members who have received letters from NRTWF to mark them “Return to sender” and drop them in the mail. It sends them the message that we support our union, and they will have to pay for return postage!
  • Distribute and post this fact sheet to spread the truth, not RTWF’s lies.
  • Ask members, family and friends to sign the “I’m not fooled” petition.
  • Show your solidarity. Wear union gear, post “Proud Union Home” signs in your window or on your lawn, or make stickers or buttons for your members. Name one day a week “Solidarity Day” at your school or worksite and wear IFT blue or your local’s color. Be creative!
  • Be politically active and encourage members to do the same. Electing candidates for office who support workers and our professions is the best way to fight off attacks on our rights. Participate in a regional IFT Political Action Committee, volunteer on a campaign, and VOTE! Visit the IFT website for other ways to get involved.

Please use these tips and tools or develop your own ideas to help spread the truth about "right-to-work". For more information, visit

Watch for a follow-up letter and a hard copy of the "Right-to-Work is Wrong" fact sheet in your mailbox soon.

Thank you for all you do to keep our union strong. 

We are One Coalition files suit to find Pension Legislation SB1 Unconstitutional

Dear members,

Today, the IFT and our partners in the We Are One Illinois coalition filed suit in Sangamon County Circuit Court to overturn pension-slashing Senate Bill 1 (SB1).

Our suit argues that the “pension theft” law violates the pension clause of the Illinois Constitution, which unequivocally states that a public employee’s pension is a contract that the state cannot diminish or impair.


Every Snowstorm in Cook County Could be an IDOT Crisis

Public safety and cost concerns emerge as the agency refuses to hire enough mechanics to keep snow plows running

 CHICAGO – The recent winter storms that shut down roads in Illinois exposed a serious potential public safety and financial problem in Cook County. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) doesn’t have enough mechanics to keep snow plows running, so they had to call in 30 mechanics from the National Guard just to keep the fleet on the road recently. 

“We can’t call in the military every time we have a snow storm,” said Tom Kosowski, President of the Illinois Federation of Public Employees (IFPE), IFT Local 4408. “We don’t have enough mechanics and shopkeepers to do the job. If we can’t keep plows running to clear the roads, they won’t be safe for anyone.”

Public employees have been on the front lines statewide, often working 21-hour days to keep up with recent storms while severely short-handed. Instead of hiring more IDOT workers, the state calls in military support, spends additional money to hire private companies, uses employees who aren’t trained mechanics, and forces their own mechanics to work large amounts of overtime. 

These unqualified workers without the appropriate experience on state vehicles create a potential danger to motorists and more cost to taxpayers.
A $3-million study conducted for the state showed that maintaining the state’s vehicles in house is more efficient and saves taxpayer dollars. Maximus Fleet Management Consulting recommended that IDOT hire more mechanics to work on the fleet and more storekeepers to handle inventory. 

“Hiring more IDOT mechanics will help keep people safe and save the state more money,” said Matt Emigholz, Vice President of Local 4408. “We don’t understand why IDOT won’t follow the advice they paid to receive.” 
At the Rodenburg facility in Schaumburg alone, 15 of 22 plows are not working at this time. If the garages were properly staffed, the right amount of inventory would be stocked at the most efficient cost and mechanics could perform preventative maintenance to keep the fleet running longer. 

The Maximus study stated, “Every competitive study we have performed has shown that efficiently operated in-house shops are more cost effective than use of commercial shops.”

RC-45 is the IFPE bargaining unit which represents employees of the Illinois Department of Transportation in Cook County. Since 1995, 62 percent of their automotive mechanics and storekeepers have been depleted. IDOT only has mechanics in Cook County; the rest of the state’s mechanics are under the Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS).

More about the Maximus study can be found via the Auditor General here, on page 46 of the PDF. The full study is available by request.

The Illinois Federation of Public Employees, Local 4408 (IFPE), represents approximately 1,500 working men and women employed in more than sixty professional titles in twenty separate State agencies. 

IFPE is a local affiliate of the Illinois Federation of Teachers which represents 103,000 teachers and paraprofessionals in PreK-12 school districts throughout Illinois, faculty and staff at Illinois’ community colleges and universities, public employees, and retirees

Union Coalition Responds to Gov. Quinn Signing SB 1

“Governor Pat Quinn has given hundreds of thousands of working and retired teachers, nurses, police, caregivers, first responders, and others no alternative but to seek justice for retirement security through the judicial system. Contrary to his belief, every Illinois citizen loses.