O'Hare janitors worried about the future of their jobs made a trip to Mayor Rahm Emanuel's house yesterday afternoon to protest a new city contract. The workers rallied outside of the mayor's home on his 53rd birthday to protest the deal that will cause some 300 workers to lose their jobs next month, just days before the holidays.
“We don’t know how we will pay the bills, how we will put food on the table. We won’t be able to celebrate Christmas this year with our kids,” Manuel Nieves, a janitor at O’Hare for seven years, said about the impending layoffs. “Obama is always here for the working people, but our mayor’s ultimate purpose is to help the rich, not us.”
The city brokered a $99 million deal with United Maintenance Company in October to take over janitorial services for O'Hare International Airport. The company decided to layoff all of the current staff and start a hiring process for 350 jobs that will pay much less than the current workers earn.
“Right now, a lot of us are making $15 [an hour] and they’re going to cut that down to $11.90,” Mildred Rueda, who works at the airport, explained at a protest at the mayor's office earlier this month. “This new company has yet to come in to explain to us what their intentions are and what they’re bringing to the table.”
Cook County janitorial workers currently earn between $12.05 and $15.45 an hour, while the new O'Hare contract starts below the lowest range of what is paid to custodians in the area. As we reported, SEIU* Local 1 President Tom Balanoff says he does not understand why the city chose the lowest bidder for the O'Hare contract considering the money for the deal will not come from the city's budget, but instead from fees paid by the airport's airlines.
“Any savings are not coming to the city budget, they are going to the airlines,” Balanoff told Progress Illinois right before the Thanksgiving holiday. “It doesn’t make sense to me, it’s illogical and leading us in a direction that we cannot continue to sustain.”
As a result of this deal, SEIU, the union representing the janitors set to lose their jobs, have renewed their efforts to push for the Responsible Bidders Ordinance, which would prevent the city from entering into contracts with companies that would negatively affect city employees. The ordinance might also help the city avoid making deals with potentially shady figures, like Richard Simon, who owns United Maintenance Company. Simon was reportedly affiliated with another company owned by alleged mobster William Daddano Jr. from 1998 until December of last year. That company operated in the same building as United Maintenance Company, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
The workers plan to continue protesting the contract and impending job losses with ongoing actions. Stay tuned.
UPDATE 1 (12:51 p.m.): SEIU Local 1 has just released this video depicting the struggle of the janitors at O'Hare set to lose their jobs:
* The SEIU Illinois Council sponsors this web site.
Image: SEIU Local 1