Mayor Emanuel’s latest O’Hare Airport janitorial contract seems to be coming with pinkie rings and tailored silk suits attached. Yes, City Hall is reaching out to the Outfit again, renewing a friendship that dates back at least to Mayor Big Bill Thompson of the Prohibition Era. Thompson’s heart went all aflutter when he heard the name Al Capone. The Outfit is a local Chicago name for what most Americans call the Mob or the Syndicate.
City Hall’s courtship with the Mob blossomed publicly under Mayor Richard J. Daley who, as Chicagoland old timers will recall, was pals with such Mob luminaries as Jake “Greasy Thumb” Guzik, John D’Arco, Fred Roti and Jake Arvey. After all, the Outfit is really just another business seeking political favors and doling out campaign contributions.
Today’s City Hall-Mob relationship at O’Hare Airport is shown in the graphic below. Vendors at O’Hare get their contracts through City Hall:
In recent times the Outfit has gone tres moderne, investing its capital accumulated through bootlegging, drugs, prostitution,gambling, union corruption and extortion in what are quaintly referred to as “legitimate businesses”.
These businesses include United Maintenance, which just got a juicy contract to sweep, mop, wipe down and dust O’Hare Airport. A unionized contractor named Scrub was ousted in favor of the non-union City Hall connected United Maintenance who pays less than the unionized Scrub did.
As reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, Paul Fosco is an executive vice-president of United Service Companies, parent to United Maintenance. Paul Fosco want to prison for 10 years on racketeering charges stemming from Mob corruption in the Laborer’s Union (now mostly clean after a long battle). Paul Fosco had been on trial with mob boss Tony “Big Tuna” Accardo, but the wily “Big Tuna” escaped the federal net and swam free. Accardo’s career began in a lowly Chicago street gang, but received a major promotion when Al Capone admired his skill at beating two rival mobsters to death with a baseball bat.
As for Paul Fosco, he is part of the celebrated Fosco crime family which included Angelo Fosco, a former president of the Laborer’s International Union (LIUNA) and a close associate of Chicago mobsters Paul “The Waiter” Ricca and Joey Aiuppa. The Fosco’s ran the union for years starting with Peter Fosco Sr. who assumed the presidency of LIUNA in 1968 after decades in Chicago. After the death of Angelo Fosco in 1993, reformers and criminal indictments have cleaned up the union.
The owner of United Service Companies is former cop Richard Simon. According to the Sun-Times, “Simon had partnered in yet another firm with William Daddano Jr., who was accused of organized-crime ties by Attorney General Lisa Madigan and the Chicago Crime Commission.”
So is City Hall married to the Mob? Not exactly, it looks more like a back room steamy affair. When asked about O’Hare and the Mob, Mayor Rahm Emanuel changed the subject, “Look, it was competitively bid. We will have a vigorous enforcement and make sure everybody lives by and appropriately stands by the law.”
Rahm has declared an all-out War on Wages through privatization, vendor favoritism and unionbusting, so his flirtation with the the Outfit is just part of a larger strategy. When it comes to screwing over the working class Rahm likes to have many partners among his sweetheart deals.
One of those unionbusters linked to the O’Hare deal is none other than charter school boss Juan Rangel. Rangel is a City Hall favorite who was co-chair of Rahm’s campaign committee and a receiver of considerable City Hall largesse doled out to UNO (United Neighborhood Organization). UNO used to be a scrappy neighborhood advocacy group, but is now a major ally of powerful Chicago corporations.
UNO owns a chain of charter schools in mostly Latino neighborhoods. A vocal opponent of the Chicago Teachers Union and neighborhood schools, Rangel has expanded UNO into janitorial services and had been contracted to United Maintenance to provide O’Hare janitors. Sub-contracting is the latest capitalist fad, allowing larger corporations and local governments deniability when workers are abused. It’s also handy for unionbusting.
Rangel may be hoping to eventually bust the Chicago Teachers Union with relentless charter expansion, but he was willing to settle for a unionbusting deal with a Mob-aligned company in the interim. Now both Rangel and United Maintenance are backing away from what had been a $5 million arrangement. Rangel apparently has a sense of political self-preservation. The Mob connection would play poorly in Chicago working class neighborhoods where gangs are a major issue.
In the old days when the economy was booming, the Democratic machine was more of a blue collar operation and normally had close relationships with the Chicago labor movement. Mayor Richard J. Daley was famous for stepping in and mediating labor contracts, often to the short-term benefit of union members. The Mob too was a major influence among some Chicago unions. But those days of City Hall generosity and Mob so-called “protection” of labor are long gone.
Now Chicago workers are defending themselves through their unions, community organizations and allied groups. An example is SEIU Local 1 which is spearheading an effort to save jobs and a living wage at O’Hare for the janitors who keep O’Hare looking decent for visitors. The union is also asking Illinois Attorney-General Lisa Madigan for a formal investigation into the Mob connections at O’Hare.
The Democratic machine is now largely made up of LaSalle Street financial institutions, major real estate interests and just for old times sake, the Chicago Outfit. But it’s important to remember that the Outfit is at best a medium-sized business in this new Chicago machine. The O’Hare-Mob connection has its titillating old-school gangster aspect, but the Outfit role is only one part of a larger story.
This is an era of massive privatization and unionbusting, when global mega-banks, some with offices right down the street from City Hall, can get away with criminal acts far more destructive to society than anything a Capone or a small time crook like Paul Fosco could ever pull off. Rahm is a partner in this big time global criminal activity. It’s great to catch the marauding mice like United Maintenance at O’Hare, but lets not forget the bigger meaner financial rats who prey upon Chicago. They represent the greater danger.
Service Employees International Union Local 1 will be sponsoring a City Hall Protest at 3:30 on December 11 to defend unionized janitors who have lost their jobs at O’Hare. SEIU has already held multiple protests against Rahm’s War on Wages. Be there if you can.