Several Public Works employees crowded the June 19 Orland Park board meeting and some spoke out against how they have been recently mistreated. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Several Public Works employees crowded the June 19 Orland Park board meeting and some spoke out against how they have been recently mistreated. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Orland Public Works staff air complaints to board

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By Jeff Vorva

Public Works workers took their grievances public.

More than 50 people attended the June 19 Orland Park village board meeting and most of them were Public Works employees who have been unhappy with the way they have been treated in recent years.

During a public comments portion of the meeting, six employees and one ex-employee of the Public Works Department had their say.

The board listened to the 18-minute line of complaints but did not comment.

Still, the employees hoped that coming out in the open will help change things.

“We’ve tried going through different chains of command and we haven’t gotten where we wanted to go, so we thought you guys and the public were our best option,” employee Frank Gabriel said.

He added there were many concerns.

“Morale for all village employees is low,” he said. “Also, people are taking on more work than their department can handle. Public Works has lost seven non-retiring employees. They were younger employees who just left due to the overall culture.”

One of those ex-employees is Jamey Davies, who said he lived in Orland Park for 25 years.

“I was told when I was a little kid that working for any village is a great job,” he said. “About two years ago, I thought I had the privilege of finally getting the job here. It was fun. The culture was good.

“Then seeing management completely break down the culture with being overworked and putting us in unsafe situations.”

He said during winter snowstorms, the employees were told to work 16-hour shifts, take eight hours off and work 16 more hours.

“I don’t know how many of you have been in a plow truck for 16 hours,” he said. “Then try to go home and have kids and a family and try to get sleep and have to come back for another 16-hour shift…there were people who were falling asleep. That put us in danger and put the public in danger. But our manager thought it was a great idea to do that.”

After two years, Davies said he had enough.

“I thought I was going to retire here but I had to leave early along with two other people that I got hired on with,” Davies said. “They are also gone. Upper management doesn’t care about us and that’s a fact.

“They feed us to the wolves. I wish I could have stayed – 100 percent.”

Former president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 union Tim Lynch said he has worked in the village for 21 years and has seen union officials being harassed recently.

“Union officials have been written up for insubordination,” he said. “They have been told they were going to be fired for insubordination, bullying, coercion – all false, made-up accusations with no backing.”

He said he was accused of insubordination and in more than two decades of work had never been written up or received a verbal warning.

Kenneth Brown said the recent changes regarding night shifts has forced his daughter to be raised by her grandparents for months because he and his wife both work nights.

“It’s been done for years without this night shift destroying families,” he said. “My daughter cried countless nights.

“It’s a toxic environment.”

Georgie Szymczak added that management was not held accountable and managers have made inappropriate and offensive jokes and comments.

Robert Pankonin piled on, charging that some managers had personal work done to their property and cars by village workers.

It’s unclear what village officials plan to do about the unrest. Mayor Keith Pekau was absent from the meeting as he was out of town visiting family.

But the situation is at a point where the workers are venting publicly no matter what the consequences might bring.

“All you want is a little respect,” Davies said.

Other business

  • The board voted for expansions to Orland Junior High, High Point Elementary School, Liberty School and Centennial School. Trustee William Healy voted “no” on the projects because he didn’t think the taxpayers money should go in that direction. Classrooms, offices, gymnasiums, parking spaces and washrooms will be a part of the project.
  • The board approved an intergovernmental agreement between District 230 and the village for the services of a resource officer at Sandburg High School.
  • The July 3 village board and committee of the whole meetings have been cancelled because of the Fourth of July holiday.

1 Comment

  1. Fred Scanlan on June 24, 2023 at 8:55 am

    Iam a retired operating eng. When it snowed and you were on the list, you went if you wanted. Ohare field, and Midway, would keep you on the field until it was over.
    Starting out is always tough when you are working a swing shift. Getting used to working nights was part of it. In the summer when the kids were home from school, I would wear ear plugs and turned the window air on high! Government jobs are no different from union jobs. They become political and are part of what goes on in the field. So, suck it up. Get to work!



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