Union members rally outside mayor’s office to protest deal
By John Byrne, Chicago Tribune reporter | 7:57 PM CST, December 4, 2012
About 100 people, including members of Service Employees International Union Local 1 and clergy members, showed up at City Hall Tuesday afternoon to take part in a prayer vigil outside the mayor’s fifth-floor office to protest the $99 million contract with United Maintenance Co. Inc., hours after Emanuel spoke in favor of the five-year pact.
The union has about 320 members at O’Hare, and Laura Garza, secretary-treasurer for Local 1, said many could lose their jobs or be forced to accept significantly lower salaries under the new deal with United Maintenance that takes effect later this month.
“They’re not a responsible bidder for this contract,” said Garza, who called on Emanuel to rebid the deal. Last week, union members marched in protest outside Emanuel’s North Side house on his 53rd birthday.
Earlier Tuesday, Emanuel said the new airport janitorial services agreement is evidence of his commitment to lowering costs. “We brought competition, throughout the city, throughout all services,” the mayor said at a news conference to announce an approach on services for immigrants. “That competition has brought better services at a lower price and more work.”
Emanuel has come under criticism for not bidding certain deals, including an electronic billboard contract that seems headed for City Council approval.
In a statement, United Maintenance said the company is encouraging current O’Hare janitors to apply for jobs under the new deal. The company is offering “the prevailing wage and better benefits than employees now receive,” the statement said.
The Chicago-based company won the new airport janitorial contract after the city’s previous deal with Scrub Inc. ran out in June. United Maintenance underbid Scrub by more than $11 million and also came in below eight other bidders, according to city records.
Scrub has been paying workers according to prevailing rates that begin at $12.05 an hour and top out at $15.45 an hour for those with five years or more of seniority. But Garza said United Maintenance plans to replace higher paid workers with new employees or rehire existing workers at lower rates.
The company has faced a prior complaint about undercutting labor deals.
In 2002, United Maintenance’s parent company was named in a federal Independent Review Board investigation of Chicago Teamsters union leaders. United Maintenance’s president, Richard Simon, was found to have colluded with Teamsters Union officials on a contract for workers for Las Vegas trade shows. Simon denied wrongdoing.
In recent months, union-allied aldermen have pushed for a “responsible bidder” ordinance including rules to protect longtime workers at places like O’Hare, but the proposal has not gained traction at City Hall.
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