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O’Hare Workers Protest Contract Deal at City Hall

Workers for O’Hare Airport have voiced their frustration over Mayor Rahm Emanuel administration’s decision to award a public contract to the company United Maintenance, a cleaning contractor at the airport. This decision could effect the jobs and healthcare options of over 300 janitors and window washers.

The first protest was on Friday Nov. 9th outside the mayor’s office, where members of SEIU Local 1 union chanted “Shame on Rahm!”, “No Jobs, No Peace!”  and “We are the 99%.” Holding brooms, dusters and signs that said, “Rahm Emanuel does not represent me” and “Jobs not cuts.” The union chanted louder and louder making sure the mayor heard their demands.

“Do not take away our jobs,” said Ruth Sanchez, a O’Hare worker. “I’ve been employed there for six years.” If the new contractor decides to let employees go their last paychecks would be scheduled to arrive just days before the Holiday season.

“At my age, it’s difficult to find another job,” Sanchez said.

Earlier in the year a similar situation happened to over 50 custodial workers for the city buildings of Chicago. Nell McNamara, a spokesperson for the SEIU Local 1 union, explained that this was a worry that arose after the 50 workers lost their jobs over the summer.

The contractor for the janitors and other custodial employees for O’Hare was a company called Scrub Inc. That contract expired June 30

“We received a call on Nov. 1 from the current contractor that the city had awarded the contract [to United Maintenance], people were shocked that it happened,” said McNamara. “We’re going to continue taking action with other workers, as long as there is a chance for the workers to keep their employment.”

The union questions the mayors policy.

“Obama stands with the workers why doesn’t Rahm also stand with the workers?” McNamara asked.

Chicagotalks reached out to the mayor’s office for a comment on the situation, but his office did not return calls or emails.

It is predicted that not all workers will lose their jobs if the union doesn’t succeed. Employees at O’Hare can apply to work for the United Maintenance Company.

United Maintenance Company inc. is a branch of United Service Companies. According to their website, it “specializes in total maintenance solutions for clients of every size and type,” and promise clients that they “utilize the latest technology and equipment.”

“We’re a great company to work for,” said Anthony D’Angelo, vice president of Corporate Security and Compliance.

“We’re going to be paying the prevailing wage rates and the prevailing benefits with the employees that we’re hiring to fulfill the contract,” said D’Angelo, regarding Scrub Inc. employees who may be hired. “We are encouraging everybody to apply.”

The company has agreed to meet all minority business enterprise requirements as well as requirements for the women’s business enterprise by subcontracting with several firms.

However the company is expanding their search for employees with the help of community organizations such as The Chicago Housing Authority, Chinese American Service League, Polish National Alliance as well as veteran organizations.

Although the company is non-union, they let the employee decide weather or not to affiliate with them.

The contract doesn’t start till Dec. 15.

Communications specialist of Local SEIU 1 Izabel Miltko informed Chicagotalks that after another protest, organized by Stand up Chicago on Nov. 13, they extended a special invitation to the mayor’s office.

It is confirmed that the mayor has received an invitation from the union.

“Walk a day in our shoes, so he can see how their work is like at O’Hare Airport,” Miltko said.

The mayor’s office did make contact with the union for further information to clear up what the union is asking, but the union has yet to hear word if the mayor will go through with their offer.

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