The same group of about 50 SEIU Local 1 janitors who lost their jobs at the end of last month returned to City Hall Thursday morning with a message for Mayor Rahm Emanuel: Sign the Responsible Bidders Ordinance.
The proposed ordinance, championed by Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) and backed by about 30 additional aldermen, would provide protections for worker retention, wages, and benefits.
The recently laid-off janitors are angry because they were not rehired after the city awarded a new municipal janitorial contract to South Holland-based Dayspring Janitorial Service in early June.
The group hand delivered a letter to one of the mayor’s aides in which they claim the city “made a mistake” because Dayspring did not retain the original workforce and has instead hired on a new staff with slashed wages and benefits.
Dayspring won the contract by submitting the lowest bid and the city has since defended its decision citing the cost savings for taxpayers, according to the Sun-Times.
But that defense hasn’t convinced Local 1 Director of Institutional Services Lonnell Saffold who said many of these janitors are now on unemployment or are using other public assistance programs, which are funded with taxpayer dollars.
“We understand that the mayor has to balance the budget, but it should not come out of the hands of working people,” Saffold told reporters outside the Mayor’s Office. “You’re taking jobs from poor people, people that are barely making a living wage, and you’re giving them to other unemployed people. ... We understand everyone needs a job, but you shouldn’t recycle poor people.”
Here's more from today's action outside of the mayor's office, including the story of one man that lost his job the same day as his wife, who worked for the city of Chicago as a clerk:
Saffold said Dayspring should have been disqualified from the bid process because in order to submit a bid the company was required to provide workers with the state’s prevailing wages and benefits.
But a spokesperson for Dayspring recently told Progress Illinois that the company does pay prevailing wages and benefits for full-time employees. In the case of the janitors' jobs, however, much of the work will go to part-timers.
Some of the now jobless janitors are longtime veterans who’ve been employed for over a decade. They say typically new contractors keep the existing workforce intact.
“[Dayspring] called people off the street and gave them our jobs. We had no idea that we would not have a job when they came, because usually when they change the contract they always kept the same workers,” said Shirley McCondichie, who has been a janitor for 18 years.
The Responsible Bidders Ordinance has yet to be approved before it can go to city council for a full vote.
Calls to the Mayor’s Office and Ald. Dowell were not returned by deadline.
Here is a SEIU Local 1 video detailing the janitors' struggles, the potential loss of more jobs, and calling for the passage of the Responsible Bidders Ordinance:
*The SEIU Illinois council sponsors this web site.