(BROOKFIELD, Ill.) — Chicago Zoological Society management is demanding that its Brookfield Zoo employees pay for all $6.5 million of their health care increases over the next four years.
Teamsters Local 727 represents nearly 300 zookeepers, groundskeepers, patrol officers and other workers at Brookfield Zoo.
“These zookeepers are passionate about their jobs and love the animals they care for, but CZS is pushing their backs against the wall,” said John Coli Jr., President of Local 727. “Forcing our members to shoulder such costs would be devastating to the workers and their families. Our members only want to be treated with dignity and respect.”
Following six months of contract negotiations, CZS has not moved from its initial proposal that employees pay for all health care increases over the life of the new four-year contract, which total approximately $6.5 million.
In 2013 — the most recent available tax documents — Brookfield Zoo’s total revenue was $72.7 million, outpacing its expenses by $6.7 million. The zoo’s net assets also grew by $9 million to more than $161 million.
The Teamsters Local 727 Bargaining Committee is scheduled to meet again with CZS management on April 18. The contract extension expires at 11:59 p.m. on April 18.
In the event of a labor dispute at the zoo, the union has provisions in place to ensure the animals’ safety and care is not compromised.
“These workers do not want to go on strike, but if management continues to mistreat them and make unreasonable demands, they will be forced to stand up for themselves,” Coli said. “We are willing to negotiate for as long as it takes on the 18th to reach a fair agreement. We can only hope that management comes to the table ready and willing to do the same.”
Additionally, the union has filed unfair labor practice charges against Chicago Zoological Society management stemming from the company’s complete misrepresentation of the ongoing contract negotiations in an April 5 email to bargaining unit members.
“Management wants to spread misinformation because it is worried about the strength of the union and our members,” Coli said.
Teamsters Local 727 represents nearly 10,000 hardworking men and women throughout the Greater Chicago area.