Desperate plea from an Oak Lawn Firefighter
|Dear Brothers and Sisters of the fire service,
MY NAME is Walter O'Neil and I am firefighter for the village of Oak Lawn. Last Friday, April 11th, myself and two firefighter/paramedics were placed on administrative leave, pending being laid off. The new village manager is proposing a budget that will eliminate our jobs and those of three others, but will be able to hire three police officers and establish a new gang unit. While meeting with Larry Detjeen on Friday, he made it clear to me that this was in retaliation for my union being unable to sign a new contract with the village for over a year.
For those of you that maybe unfamiliar with Oak Lawn, this is the village that has novelty stop signs below our normal stop signs. Last year our village also spent $500,000 on a photo-traffic enforcement system that doesn't function properly. The current administration has mismanaged money to such an extent that it has placed my career, and the careers of my fellow firefighters in jeopardy.
On a personal note, I am very proud to say that I passed my probationary one year period with an excellent evaluation. I mention this because it happened to me exactly three hours before the chief told me that I "was relieved from duty". I left a great job as a Blue Island firefighter to start all over again as a probe in Oak Lawn. I did this because I was born and raised in Oak Lawn, and I have always considered it home. My father was a firefighter here for thirty-one years. My grandfather was a Chicago firefighter for thirty-five years.
My co-workers, who were also placed on leave, left careers in other departments to be here in Oak Lawn. My friend, Sebastian Katzel, is the proud new father of a baby boy that was born just last week. Sebastian is also a paramedic and has been on the job two years. His wife and him have two children.
Dana Bartunek has been on the job for almost three years now. Dana is a paramedic was currently on leave due to an on the job injury. Just like the rest of us, her insurance will be up on the twenty-second.
There is a village board meeting on Tuesday, April 22ND. At this meeting they will vote on this proposed budget. What I am asking for is a show of support at this meeting. This meeting will be held on the second floor of the village hall, 9446 S. Raymond (5300 west on 95th street) at 7P.M. I love my job!!! --as all of you do. This proposed budget that will strip the fire department down to a skeleton crew, is in clear retaliation to our contract negotiation problems. If we let these jerks here in Oak Lawn get away with this, then it will become commonplace for other local governments to try this tactic at negotiation times.
Walter O'Neil Jr.
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