On the Job: Tim Lynch at Village of Orland Park
Tim Lynch is a member of AFSCME Local 368
Tell us about your job as a maintenance worker.
I’ve worked here for 17 years and I do all kinds of different work. I’ve been in charge of the stormwater program, maintaining more than 300 ponds and dealing with blockages to ensure that the town doesn’t get flooded. I’ve worked the water main crew where we dig out and repair water mains. I have my water plant operator’s license so I’ve worked to treat our water and maintain our water towers. Right now, I’m doing all the electrical work for Orland Park, maintaining all the streetlight poles, the Christmas decorations, the Metra train station lighting. And of course, since it’s winter, I plow snow as well.
What’s your favorite part of the job?
I like learning how everything runs and how everything works, and I’ve learned so much in my time here. Municipal work looks a lot different to us than to the regular person who just flushes a toilet or turns on a sink. Everything is complex, most of it is underground, and it’s all interconnected. The water needs to be treated and tested daily, and we make sure the water towers are filled to the proper level to provide proper pressure to homes. The water mains are crisscrossing under the roads with cable lines and gas lines. We must maintain these safely and with the least amount of disruption to residents. There’s a lot that goes into maintaining a community and none of it is easy, but I like the challenge.
How does your job provide a valuable public service?
We’re critical to keeping people safe, especially in the winter with the snow and the ice. And instead of waiting for contractors to be called out, as city employees who live in the community, we’re right there as soon as the public needs us. The snow starts falling and I’m there within 15 minutes. Everyone reports right away and within an hour we’re cleaning the roads and fixing water main breaks. We’re on top of it—even if it’s the middle of the night—to make sure complaints get resolved quickly.
What are the challenges of working during winter?
This winter has been tough. When that cold hit [the polar vortex that hit Illinois with record-breaking negative 50-degree weather in January], we were just coming off more than 20 days working 14-hour shifts, plus weekends, salting and plowing. I’d finally get in bed at 11 at night only to get a call at 2 a.m. to come back out.
How does your union improve public services?
If you can provide for your family, it makes you a better person when you go to work. If you’re miserable and struggling to get by, it’s hard to provide excellent services to everyone else. With the union, everyone has good benefits, makes a decent wage and is able to live comfortably. They have vacation time to get a break from work. These things make my life better so when I go to work, I’m happier. We have better morale and we’re ready to focus on helping other people.
How has your union job impacted your family?
My union benefits help provide for my family and also gives me more time with them. I have good health insurance and a decent salary. I’ve been holding my job steady for 17 years and that’s been huge for my family and my kids.
Why is it important for union members to stay united?
The union plays a huge role in fighting for fair wages and good benefits for all workers so we can keep the middle class. Without the union, I’d have to work two or three jobs to get by instead of working one. Without the union, workers like me probably wouldn’t provide as good of service, we wouldn’t be able to spend as much time with our families and we wouldn’t be as happy.
We have a good working relationship with management after years of working with them, not against them. But the village would love to cut our salaries in half and get rid of our insurance. It’s not because they hate us, that’s just the way the world is: If they could do it cheaper, they would. That’s true in the private sector. Companies want to do a lot more with a lot less. They want to cut their spending and increase their profits. If they could wipe out the middle class, they would.
Our membership is always ready to step up and stand together for something important. That unity is critical for our local, and for the middle class in general.