One day after reports surfaced that the owner of a custodial firm failed to disclose that he sold half his stake in the company prior to winning a $99 million city contract, members of SEIU*, which represents former janitors at O'Hare Airport, are calling on Mayor Rahm Emanuel to void the deal that resulted in the laying off of more than 300 workers last month.
At a press conference held Tuesday outside of Emanuel’s city hall office, SEIU Local 1 President Tom Balanoff said a recent report in the Chicago Sun-Times regarding United Maintenance Co. Inc., owner Richard Simon showed that he “knowingly violated” city requirements by not fully disclosing the company’s ownership status until after it had won the bid to provide janitorial services at O’Hare Airport.
“This is a serious deception I would say,” Balanoff said. “And it’s a violation of city requirement and should result, I believe, in this contract being voided.” Balanoff was joined by union members, some of whom were laid off on December 14 when the deal with United Maintenance Co. went into effect.
“I had a good job, but I was kicked out of the airport and now I’m back at point A,” said former O’Hare custodian Jerron Stokes. “I’m trying to find a new job, but it’s tough out there.”
Balanoff said the union planned to ask Cook County District Attorney Anita Alvarez to look into the matter to determine if United Maintenance’s actions warrant a full investigation into possible criminal charges.
“I don’t think this is a minor technicality that you don’t report who owns your company,” Balanoff said. “He knew for a year, why did he wait until after the fact, after he got this $100 million contract and then put it in?”
Here is more from today's press conference at City Hall:
Controversy has surrounded United Maintenance ever since last October when the company was awarded the five-year deal to clean O’Hare Airport. Since that time, the company has come under scrutiny for its plans to eliminate the existing workforce and replace them with non-unionized, lower-paid employees.
United Maintenance argues that it offered jobs to close to 400 applicants, a quarter of whom were those that worked under former contractor, Scrub, Inc.
Months of demonstrations and rallies by a collection of worker rights organizations did nothing to sway city leaders to rebid the contract. The city remained steadfast in its support of the deal even when reports arose alleging United Maintenance Co. had ties with known mob figures.
Stokes remains hopeful the city will give the matter another look considering the latest revelations.
“I need a job,” Stokes said. “I hope that they could rebid [the contract] again and, hopefully, I could just get back to the airport.”
* The SEIU Illinois Council sponsors this web site.