As 50 Chicago union janitors prepare to lose their jobs on June 29, a group of SEIU* Local 1 members showed up at City Hall to decry the layoffs and push city council members to sponsor a new labor contract ordinance.
Just before the Chicago City Council meeting convened this morning, a group of soon-to-be jobless janitors joined Local 1 President Tom Balanoff to speak with reporters outside council chambers.
A veteran janitor of 18 years, Shirley McCondichie spoke with Progress Illinois after the press conference. She said she’s never been laid off before, but still had a difficult time making ends meet on her janitor’s salary. Now, she is unsure of what the future holds.
“Terrible. I’ve never in my life drawn unemployment. I’ve been working 33 years in this city. I’ve got a daughter going to college. I don’t know if she’s going to be able to go, because I won’t be able to pay for her books,” McCondichie said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
The group said news of the layoffs came just days after the city awarded a new janitorial service contract in early June to Dayspring, Inc., a South Holland-based janitorial services company.
Balanoff said Dayspring “manipulated standards” by not rehiring the union janitors after the city awarded the company the new contract.
“Unlike the practice that has existed, they did not retain the current workforce. All of our members applied for jobs, but none of them have been invited. This contractor, in their interviews with our members, explained that much of the work will be part time. But this was a bid for full-time work,” Balanoff said.
He also said that Dayspring’s employees would be paid about $3 less an hour than they were previously paid and that their health benefits would be slashed. If rehired, the janitors would see their annual earnings plummet from $30,000 to $22,000, bringing them below the federal poverty level for a family of four. Additionally, the janitors are set to suffer a loss of health care benefits at a most inopportune time as the nation awaits the Supreme Court's decision on the Affordable Health Care Act.
In a phone interview Wednesday afternoon Marvin Richardson, human resources manager for Dayspring, said his company pays wages and offers benefits comparable to Local 1, but did not give specific numbers.
“We pay prevailing wages with the state of Illinois, which is the same scale in which those outside governing bodies go by. For our full-time employees, we do provide benefits for them,” he said.
Richardson went on to say that Dayspring does not have a contract with any janitors union and instead hires workers from other sources such as local unemployment offices and the Center for Employment Training.
He, did however, empathize with those who are losing their jobs.
“We do understand it’s a difficult situation for anyone who’s losing their job. The thing we want people to know is ... we’re a contractor for the city of Chicago and the decisions they make have very little do with us. All we’re trying to do is fulfill a contract,” Richardson said.
Meanwhile, the union says Dayspring is an “irresponsible contractor” that has not honored area standards by maintaining the previous contractor’s employees and their accompanying seniority, wages, and benefits.
The janitors are now pushing Chicago aldermen to pass the Responsible Bidders Ordinance, which would place minimum requirements on worker retention and wage and health care benefits. Though the ordinance has received word-of-mouth backing from 31 aldermen, it has yet to go through committee to be officially discussed.
* The SEIU Illinois Council sponsors this web site.