Quick Hit Aricka Flowers Friday December 14th, 2012, 11:36pm

Death Knell Rings For O'Hare Janitor Jobs

Bah, humbug!

That's the message some 300 O'Hare janitors got today, along with pink slips, due to the controversial new city contract with United Maintenance, Inc.

For several weeks, the workers, represented by SEIU* Local 1, and their advocates have called on Mayor Rahm Emanuel to rebid a contract with a janitorial company that slashed hourly wages to $11.90 from a pay range of $12.05 to $15.45. The $99 million contract also cuts employee health benefits, changing them from family health care plans to individual plans that cost hundreds of dollars more to include family members. The city is not saving any money under the contract, according to SEIU Local 1 President Tom Balanoff, because the funds that pay for the contract comes from the airport's airlines. 

The contract also failed to ensure that the workers, many of whom have worked at O'Hare for several years, would keep their jobs; instead allowing the company to offer an "open enrollment" process, which required the workers to reapply for their jobs. Only a handful, approximately 20 to 30, of the more than 300 workers have been rehired to continue working at the airport.

Curiously, today Emanuel's office released an "unprecedented" transparency plan for city contract bids beginning in 2013, which requires that all vendor proposals and winning and losing bids for city contracts be posted online, allowing for public viewing. But this added transparency is too little too late for the janitors who have lost their jobs today, along with the other city workers who have lost their posts in recent months due to new city contracts.

Additionally, this transparency plan, and other recent procurement reforms, do nothing to protect workers' rights and wages, which is at the crux of the recent problems with city contracts. This is why the O'Hare workers and their advocates have been calling on the mayor and city council to pass the Responsible Bidders Ordinance. The measure would ensure that the city does not enter into contracts that would adversely affect the welfare of workers and protect them when the city changes contractors. (Click through to view and sign an online petition in support of the O'Hare workers and worker protections.)  

Until the Responsible Bidders Ordinance passes, despite the mayor's recent "series of procurement reforms", there are no assurances that more city workers won't lose their jobs or living wages due to suspect city contracts.

* The SEIU Illinois Council sponsors this web site.

Image: SEIU Local 1


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The answer: SEIU needs to organize the United Maintenance workers!

All unions need to do more organizing.

Bob Kastigar
IBEW Local 1220, Chicago