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Quiet dissent

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Unbeknownst to, well, just about everybody, Atlanta's Public Works department held a work stoppage Aug. 21.
But with the re-organization of city government and budget trimming on the horizon, it may be the first of many such walkouts.

In the Aug. 21 work stoppage, though, Public Works employees, which includes everyone from road crews to sanitation and sewer workers, were protesting the awarding of bonuses to Hartsfield Airport employees during the same time the city has been forced to lay off and furlough scores of city employees.

Councilman H. Lamar Willis, who chairs the City Council's Transportation Committee, was one of three members of the body who voted against the bonuses. He says Mayor Shirley Franklin dispatched people from her office to talk with Public Works union reps and the mayor herself eventually spoke with some of the angry workers. Some, Willis says, wound up back at work by the end of the day.

However, as soon as Franklin smoothed over the bonus situation, Willis says he received a call from a union representative irate over the mayor's inchoate plans for re-organizing City Hall. A rough sketch of some of the changes have been given out to council members, but no job cuts, which are expected because of the city's projected $35 million 2003 budget shortfall, are mentioned. Changes include the elimination of the Department of Administration and the creation of two new cabinet-level positions -- chief procurement officer and chief information officer. All water-related services are slated to be placed under a new Watershed Management Department. The city's charter will have to be changed to accomplish the reorganization.

Franklin received strong support from the unions during her last election, but further job cuts could weaken that support during the very time many Democrats expect she will play a pivotal role in the get-out-the-vote effort in the November elections.

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