CHICAGO – As their ongoing strike for a fair contract continues into its third week, hundreds of SEIU Local 1 window washers descended upon City Hall—a landmark building they clean—Wednesday morning with their families. They were joined by more than a dozen Chicago aldermen to urge employers like Corporate Cleaning Services to offer fair compensation for their treacherous work. Striking window washers were greeted outside by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
“Window washers clean Chicago’s landmark buildings like City Hall, the Willis Tower and the Hancock Center, but too many of us are struggling to support our families,” said SEIU Local 1 window washer Jorge Arizaga, who cleans City Hall. “It’s time our employers, like Corporate Cleaning Services, offer us a fair wage of $25 an hour in a three-year contract.”
Chicago window washers, whose contract expired June 30, have been on an industry-wide strike since July 2. They will not resume work until employers Corporate Cleaning Services return to the bargaining table and negotiate the contract window washers need to raise their families.
Window washers can count a majority of Chicago aldermen among their supporters, including Black Caucus Chairman Roderick Sawyer (6th), Latino Caucus Chairman Gilbert Villegas (36th), Progressive Reform Caucus Chairman Scott Waguespack (32nd) as well as Alds. Joe Moreno (1st), Pat Dowell (3rd), Sophia King (4th), Leslie Hairston (5th), Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th), George Cardenas (12th), Marty Quinn (13th), Raymond Lopez (15th), Toni Foulkes (16th), Derrick Curtis (18th), Matthew O’Shea (19th), Howard Brookins Jr. (21st), Ricardo Muñoz (22nd), Silvana Tabares (23rd), Michael Scott Jr. (24th), Roberto Maldonado (26th), Chris Taliaferro (29th), Deb Mell (33rd), Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), Emma Mitts (37th), Nicholas Sposato (38th), Brendan Reilly (42nd), John Arena (45th), James Cappleman (46th), Ameya Pawar (47th), Harry Osterman (48th) and Debra Silverstein (50th).
The window washers are fighting for a strong new three-year contract that includes a $25/hour base wage and affordable health benefits for the dangerous work they do. They are calling on Corporate Cleaning Services CEO Neal Zucker to resume negotiations and bargain a fair contract.
Every day, Chicago window washers hang hundreds of feet in the air and put their lives on the line to clean prominent buildings like the Trump and Willis Towers and City Hall. But window washers are struggling to support their families on low wages and a healthcare policy that forces many to rely on public assistance.
Window washing is an important and historic family industry in Chicago, yet many workers struggle to make ends meet on wages as low as the minimum wage cleaning the skyscrapers of billion-dollar corporations. Window washers cannot afford employer-provided healthcare, with many of their families forced to rely on public assistance just to have health coverage.
While billion-dollar buildings like Trump Tower enjoy massive tax breaks, the window washers who scale them are barely making ends meet. Meanwhile, in other markets like New York, window washers start at $21 and enjoy employer-provided healthcare, giving them the ability to support their families and communities. Chicago window washers deserve the same opportunity.