Unions, Activists Occupy Chicago City Hall Over Clinic Closing Plan
Hundreds of lay-offs loom after City Council approves Mayor Emanuel’s austerity budget
Today (November 16) Chicago’s city council voted unanimously—50-0—to approve Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s controversial proposed budget, which includes closing six of the city’s 12 mental health clinics and privatizing all seven of the city public health department’s community primary care clinics.
According to an analysis by AFSCME Council 31, which represents more than 200 workers marked for layoffs under the budget proposal, the healthcare cuts will have a drasticallly disproportionate impact on black and Latino workers and south and west side residents who depend on the clinics.
On Tuesday, opponents of the plan spent hours in a sit-in at city hall. The group included members of Council 31, along with other union members, patients of the clinics and community activists. AFSCME member Robert Steward, a clinical therapist since 2003 at the mental health clinic in Englewood, one of the city’s poorest south side neighborhoods, told me that many patients have already disappeared because of bad management decisions and delays in service, and he’s afraid if the clinic closes more will “fall through the cracks in the system” without finding other care.
Though the Englewood clinic is slated for closing, he said clinic workers have not been told by higher-ups what their future holds. After spending several hours at the sit-in, he told me: