01/12/2012 02:42 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Chicago Public Library Battle: Aldermen Urge Workers To Skip Raises To Avoid Closures (VIDEO)

The labor union representing city librarians balked at a suggestion made by two powerful Chicago aldermen this week that they should forego their contractually-obligated annual raises so that Chicago Public Library branches can stay open on Mondays.

Anders Lindall, spokesman of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, which represents unionized city library employees, told the Chicago Sun-Times that the request, offered up by Ald. Edward Burke (14th) and Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), reflects values "that prioritize corporate tax cuts over fair pay for working people" in a way that is not "in step with most peoples' values."

Lindall further points to the cut in the city's head tax as proof that the city has the money to keep the libraries open and to even avoid employee layoffs if it chose to do so, as CBS Chicago reports.

"A city with $23 million in new tax loopholes for corporations this year can afford $3 million for its libraries for the people of all of its neighborhoods," Lindall told CBS. "A city that saved more than $8 million over and above its targeted efficiencies for the last calendar year and is seeking a lot of credit for doing so, could use less than half that amount to keep the libraries open for the people."

But Burke, Reilly -- and Mayor Rahm Emanuel -- see matters differently. In a letter issued Tuesday, the two aldermen calculated the AFSCME-represented library employees' 3.5 percent 2012 pay raises to be worth $1.6 million, money they say could be used to undo 120 of the system's 176 recent layoffs and keep the libraries open on Monday afternoons, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Emanuel this week accused the union of "us[ing] the libraries as a bargaining chip for something else." He says the closure would have been avoidable had the union agreed to the plan he outlined in his city budget to close the city's libraries on Monday and Friday mornings, keeping the libraries open 40 hours per week.

The union has filed a grievance with the Chicago Public Library over the previously announced closing of the city's branch libraries on Mondays which, it claims, took place without prior consultation, according to Progress Illinois.

WATCH Lindall, Laurence Msall of the Civic Federation, Ald. John Arena (45th) and Ald. Pat O'Connor (40th) discuss the matter on Chicago Tonight on WTTW earlier this week:

Watch January 9, 2012 - Library Hours on PBS. See more from Chicago Tonight.