Chicago janitors represented by SEIU* Local 1 took to the streets Thursday morning as they began gearing up for pending contract negotiations.
SEIU Local 1 leaders and dozens of Chicago custodians from institutional and commercial services kicked off their 2015 janitorial contract campaign on the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. Their contracts are set to expire in April.
The unionized janitors, including many who clean Chicago Public Schools (CPS) buildings, rolled out their campaign calling for better wages and benefits outside of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. College Preparatory High School, 4445 S. Drexel Boulevard.
"Of course, Martin Luther King, he stood for many things, but people fail to realize he died supporting the sanitation strike in Memphis, supporting sanitation workers who were being treated unfair," said Lonnell Saffold, director of institutional services for SEIU Local 1. "We believe that it's only right we be here to commemorate him and realize that his struggle is not going to die."
Low-wage school custodians from Elgin, Wheaton, Rockford and other areas picketed outside of the Illinois Association of School Boards conference in Chicago Friday morning, demanding paid holiday and sick days.
Chanting "Hey, District U46. Your low wages make us sick," the custodians, hired by school district contractors and represented by SEIU* Local 1, also called for better pay and health benefits.
"We want to show (school board officials) that we're not happy with what they pay to our custodians," Carolina Villalobos, an SEIU Local 1 organizer, said outside of the Hyatt Regency Chicago, where the conference was held.
Worker advocates are sounding the alarm on "dangerous" and "unhealthy" working conditions at Nippon Sharyo's passenger train factory in Rochelle, Illinois.
Employees at the Rochelle plant -- which has received millions in grants, tax credits and training money from the state -- build railcars for Metra and other public transit agencies.
With the help of the AFL-CIO, current and former factory employees filed a complaint last month with the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), alleging that workers "are exposed to serious, unsafe conditions on an ongoing basis."
Waukegan teachers union officials and school District 60 representatives made progress at a long contract negotiation session Sunday, but the two sides still remain at odds over "salary, benefits and duration," according to the school board.