Illinois

‘Paraíso’ [New York Times]

Paraiso

I first got the idea for this film (whose title, “Paraíso,” is the Spanish word for “Paradise”) when I was living in Chicago working as a film editor. One morning, as I sat at my desk in a high-rise downtown, a man dropped down inches from my window, cleaned it, and disappeared to the next floor. This momentary interaction seemed a perfect metaphor for life in many multiethnic American cities where the work of immigrants often goes unnoticed. I hoped to find out more about what motivated these men to spend their working days dangling hundreds of feet in the air.

Soon after I began filming, I met two brothers, Sergio Polanco and Jaime Polanco, and their cousin, Cruz Guzman. The Polanco brothers came to the United States from García de la Cadena, a small town in Zacatecas, Mexico, and the birthplace of a surprisingly large number of Chicago’s window washers and their families. The brothers and Mr. Guzman are employed by Corporate Cleaning Services, a well-established Chicago window cleaning company that, according to its president, Neal Zucker, requires all of its employees to be in compliance with federal and state guidelines governing employment eligibility. Window washers at this company receive health and life insurance benefits through membership in a union, SEIU Local 1, and can typically earn anywhere between $45,000 and $65,000 a year, depending on their skill level and speed.

My subjects work as many days a week as they can, assessing weather conditions on a daily if not hourly basis to determine the risk of injury from high winds. Fortunately, because of these precautions and other safety standards, window-washing-related fatalities are few. (According to the International Window Cleaning Association, in the United States, there were a total of 39 deaths between 2002 and 2012.) Work continues throughout the year, and even at temperatures just above freezing.

In my filming, what came through most was the men’s commitment to creating a better life for their immediate and extended families in the United States and Mexico through hard work and a dedication to an unusual occupation. These values continue to motivate window washers to climb over the ledges of high-rise buildings on many mornings all over the Chicago skyline.

This video is part of a series produced by independent filmmakers who have received support from the nonprofit Sundance Institute.

 

Nadav Kurtz  is a filmmaker based in New York. “Paraíso” screened at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and has won awards at festivals including the Tribeca Film Festival, A.F.I.-Docs and the Chicago International Film Festival.

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Insiders Have Parts in Post Office Development Saga [Chicago Sun-Times]

by Dan Mihalopoulos, 8/6/2013

Rendering shows the old Main Chicago Post Office after a planned first phase of its redevelopment. The view is westward along Congress Parkway. Courtesy Antunovich Associates

Much of the attention surrounding the old Chicago Main Post Office redevelopment has centered on the Monaco-based English developer Bill Davies and his patchy track record.

Others who stand to benefit from the recently approved plan have escaped notice. The site on the southwestern edge of downtown is in line for a potential investment of $4 billion over many years, and it’s often mentioned as the first Chicago casino site if the city ever gets a gambling license.

Public records show the City Council’s approval for the project at 433 W. Van Buren also includes several parcels around the old post office. One is at Clinton and Harrison and is owned by 527 S. Clinton LLC, whose investors include three longtime local businessmen:

◆ Richard Simon, the former police officer whose janitorial firm controversially won a big contract at O’Hare Airport last year from Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration.

The Chicago Sun-Times has reported that Simon failed to disclose that he sold a major stake in the janitorial company while it pursued the $99.4 million airport deal. The mayor’s aides declined to cancel the deal, even though the city can do so if bidders don’t provide current ownership information.

The Sun-Times also has reported that Simon employed a man convicted of racketeering in a case for which other defendants included the late Chicago mob boss Anthony “Big Tuna” Accardo.

◆ William Pacella, whose Bridgeport trucking company got business in the city’s old, scandal-plagued Hired Truck program.

Pacella had teamed up with Fred Bruno Barbara, a friend of former Mayor Richard M. Daley, in a failed bid for an Illinois riverboat casino license in the 1990s.

◆ George Bonomo, another Bridgeport businessman who also has invested in race horses with Pacella.

In 2010, Bonomo and Pacella got council approval for a 33-story building on their land just west of the old Post Office. It hasn’t been built.

Pacella, Bonomo and another investor, Vahooman Mirkhaef, have 26.67 percent stakes in 527 S. Clinton LLC, while Simon has a 10 percent interest, according to disclosures the company was required to make as part of the post office development’s zoning application.

Jack George, the zoning attorney for Davies’ company, International Property Developers North America Inc., said his client has an option to buy the 527 S. Clinton site, a parking lot. George said he dealt with an agent of the owners and was unaware of their identities.

Property records show 527 S. Clinton LLC took out a $4.2 million mortgage on the property in June 2012.

Final zoning approval for the post office plan came last month. The proposal calls for filling the massive old building with residences and stores while surrounding it with three high-rises. Construction to the west of the building on the Clinton Street land is seen as coming in a later phase, probably many years from now.

An earlier zoning plan for the post office in 2010 also included a 6.5-acre riverfront site known as Franklin Point, running southwest of Harrison and Wells. However, George said the property is no longer part of the post office zoning. He said Davies owned an option to buy the property, but it has lapsed.

Any work on the post office could lift the value of Franklin Point. Its owners include two New Yorkers who started the Rocawear clothing line with rap superstar Jay-Z.

Alex Bize and Naum Chernyavsky each own 35 percent of the company that controls the site, city records show.

BRACH’S GETTING BULLDOZED: Itasca-based ML Realty Partners LLC, owners of the old Brach’s candy plant at 401 N. Cicero, plans to start demolishing the remaining parts of it. A spokesman said asbestos work should be done by the fall and demolition should be finished by next spring. ML intends to replace the factory with a 520,000-square-foot industrial building.

The goal is to make the site more attractive for tenants and take advantage of an improving economy, the company said in a statement. But something else is spurring it into action.

It’s the threatened end of a $10.6 million city subsidy to help with demolition costs. The city in 2008 approved the deal for ML. It was due to expire last May 31 for lack of action at the site, but at the last moment the city extended it for six months.

A spokesman for the city’s Department of Housing and Economic Development said the deal requires the developer to finish a new building by Oct. 31, 2014. ML will have to hustle.

Hollywood did part of the job in 2007 when it blew up some of the Brach’s plant for a Batman movie.

 

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Local 1 Constitution and Bylaws Amended!

page 1At the June 1st, 2013 membership meeting, Local 1 members from 11 cities and 6 states overwhelmingly approved constitutional and bylaw amendments by a 94% vote. The final vote tally was 366 in favor of the amendments and 22 against.

Click here for a copy of the most recent and up-to-date Local 1 constitution.

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Our City. Our Schools. Our Voice.

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Asean Johnson brings about a thousand supporters to tears. Watch his speech here: http://youtu.be/vWp4uzmjwEM

On May 18, 19, and 20 of 2013, hundreds of teachers, students, custodians, lunchroom workers, and supporters marched for three days in protest of the largest school closing in US history. Chicago Public Schools (CPS) announced early in 2013 that they were planning to shutter 54 schools by the end of 2013. The schools are located on Chicago’s South and West sides, home to widespread poverty and criminal activity. The closing and consolidating of these schools will directly impact nearly 40,000 children in the Chicago area and will eliminate close to 3500 jobs.

On May 22, CPS announced that they will only close 49 of the 54 schools. Though we are happy for the schools that will be spared (Mahalia Jackson Elementary and Leif Ericson Elementary to name two), the fight against CPS closings is not over. In solidarity with Unite HERE, Action Now, and the Chicago Teachers Union, Local 1 will continue to protest the largest school closing in US history. It’s going to be a long summer, and we will not be silent.

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O’Hare Janitors Urge United Maintenance to Recognize Their Union

***News Advisory for Tuesday, May 14 at 10am***

In defiance of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s decision to lower wages at O’Hare, janitors call for union recognition with support from aldermen…

O’Hare janitors choose SEIU in hope of better future

Who:                O’Hare Janitors, Members of the Chicago City Council, Jorge Ramirez-President of the Chicago Federation of Labor, SEIU members and officers, non-union airport workers

What:               O’Hare workers call for union recognition

Where:            City Hall, 121 N LaSalle – 2nd Floor

When:              Tuesday, May 14 at 10am

More than 70 percent of O’Hare janitors are coming together for better jobs and have chosen SEIU to represent their interests. Last December, Mayor Emanuel awarded a $100 million O’Hare cleaning contract to a company with longstanding ties to organized crime that promised to lower wages by 30 percent. As a result, hundreds of union workers lost their jobs and now the nonunion, largely new workforce is fighting to restore family-sustaining wages and benefits at O’Hare. The janitors will call on Mayor Emanuel to urge his contractor, United Maintenance, to recognize SEIU as their legal representative and bargain in good faith.

Contact: Leslie Mendoza Kamstra 773-896-7815 or mendozal@seiu1.org

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Union Plus

As an SEIU Local 1 member or retiree, you are entitled to member-only rates, discounts and special offers from Union Plus. The Union Plus program is brought to us by the AFL-CIO to provide consumer benefits to union members. To view a full list of programs and discounts, including mortgages, travel discounts, entertainment coupons, and prepaid debit cards, visit www.unionplus.org or call 1-800-452-9425.

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SEIU Security Officers Approve Historic Contract [Progress Illinois]

from Progress Illinois, 4/23/2013

SEIU* security officers have reached an agreement with the Building Owners and Manager’s Association (BOMA), voting unanimously for a three-year contract that went into effect Sunday.

The contract secures annual wage increases for the security officers and keeps comprehensive family health insurance intact for the workers and their families.

“When responsible companies do their part and invest in good jobs with family health care and a livable wage, our whole city benefits,” said Tom Balanoff, President of SEIU Local 1. “This three year agreement will boost our local economy in the communities that need it most. Now we will call on employers in the suburbs to follow BOMA’s lead and invest in good jobs that support hard working families.”

The workers have been rallying for a fair contract that included a wage increase since March, as Progress Illinois has previously covered. The new contract will bring in more than $4,000 in increased wages for the security officers.

“We worked hard, we persevered, we fought, and we won. Now we can feel a little better about our jobs, and, ultimately, our lives,” said Tonya Yarbrough, a security officer at the Chicago Stock Exchange. “This contract is not going to fix our neighborhoods overnight; but if we come together and fight for our neighborhoods the way that we fought for our jobs, we can make a safer Chicago.

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Downtown Security’s Historic New Contract

Tanya Robinson calls for a unanimous vote at the 4/20 contract ratification meeting.

Tanya Robinson calls for a unanimous vote at the 4/20 contract ratification meeting.

While Chicago’s security officers protect corporations that generate more than $500 billion a year, most of them go home to the most dangerous and economically depressed communities in the city. Starting in January, a dedicated security brigade took to the streets to rally support as they fought for fair wages. On April 20th, security officers unanimously approved a new union contract that preserves their ability to support their families. About 2,000 officers and their families will benefit from more than $4,000 in increased wages and access to family health care over the next three years. Together, the officers will bring $8.9 million into the local economy, pumping much needed resources into our city’s struggling neighborhoods. Winning the highest wage increase in SEIU Local 1 Security history, downtown security officers fought hard for good jobs and a safer Chicago… and they won.

“We worked hard, we persevered, we fought, and we won. Now we can feel a little better about our jobs, and, ultimately, our lives,” says Tonya Yarbrough, a security officer at the Chicago Stock Exchange. “This contract is not going to fix our neighborhoods overnight; but if we come together and fight for our neighborhoods the way that we fought for our jobs, we can make a safer Chicago.”

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Chicago Security Officers, Building Owners and Security Contractors Invest in Good Jobs, Pump $8.9 Million into City’s Neglected Neighborhoods

***Advisory for Monday, April 22, 2013***

CONTACT: Leslie Mendoza Kamstra 773-896-7815 or mendozal@seiu1.org

Security officers unanimously approve contract agreement benefiting both their families and communities 

CHICAGO—Downtown security officers are partnering with Chicago’s Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) to invest in good jobs and take action to create a safer Chicago. While Chicago’s security officers protect corporations that generate more than $500 billion a year, most of them go home to the most dangerous and economically depressed communities in the city.

Unanimously, the security officers approved a new union contract that preserves their ability to support their families. About 2,000 working families will benefit from more than $4,000 in increased wages and access to family health care over the next three years. Together, the officers will bring $8.9 million into the local economy, pumping much needed resources into our city’s struggling neighborhoods.

“When responsible companies do their part and invest in good jobs with family health care and a livable wage, our whole city benefits,” says Tom Balanoff, President of SEIU Local 1. “This three year agreement will boost our local economy in the communities that need it most. Now we will call on employers in the suburbs to follow BOMA’s lead and invest in good jobs that support hard working families.”

The new three year downtown security officers’ union contract, which goes into effect April 21, guarantees:

  • Annual wage increases for security officers, the majority of whom are African American and live in the city’s most impoverished, under-resourced neighborhoods where 80 percent of Chicago’s more than 500 murders occurred in 2012.
  • Protection of quality, family health insurance.  The security officers’ plan provides comprehensive coverage for the officers and their families at a significantly lower cost than the average family health plan in Illinois.

“We worked hard, we persevered, we fought, and we won. Now we can feel a little better about our jobs, and, ultimately, our lives,” says Tonya Yarbrough, a security officer at the Chicago Stock Exchange. “This contract is not going to fix our neighborhoods overnight; but if we come together and fight for our neighborhoods the way that we fought for our jobs, we can make a safer Chicago.”

More than 5,000 security officers in the suburbs will work to settle their contract by the end of 2013.

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SEIU Local 1 unites 50,000 property service workers in the Midwest, including security officers, janitors, window washers and residential doormen.  Together we work to build strength for all working people, on the job and in our communities.

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O’Hare janitors opt for rival union that’s friendly with Rahm [Chicago Sun-Times]

BY DAN MIHALOPOULOS Staff Reporter dmihalopoulos@suntimes.com April 5, 2013 2:00PM

A bitter loss for a labor union that’s feuding with Mayor Rahm Emanuel has turned into gain for some of Emanuel’s best friends in organized labor.

Janitors’ union leaders complained that 300 members lost their jobs a few days before Christmas because Emanuel signed a $99.4 million deal with a new contractor to clean O’Hare Airport. Now, the replacement airport janitors have joined the Teamsters — one of the few unions that supported Emanuel’s 2011 mayoral campaign.

SEIU leaders — who were neutral in the 2011 mayor’s race and have since criticized Emanuel frequently — filed a complaint Thursday with the National Labor Relations Board. They say the city’s new airport janitorial contractor, United Maintenance Cos. Inc., “unlawfully coerced” its airport employees to become Teamsters.

Nora Kelley, chief of staff at SEIU Local 1, said United Maintenance and city officials refused to arrange access to the workers for SEIU to try to organize them. “Instead, they granted preferential access” to the Teamsters, Kelley said.

A Teamsters spokesman did not return calls seeking comment, but United Maintenance lawyer Thomas Mandler said the company’s O’Hare workers voted earlier this week to join Teamsters Local 727. Mandler said city officials played no role in negotiations.

Asked about charges that City Hall favored the Teamsters, Emanuel spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton replied in an email that the matter is “a dispute between two labor organizations.” She added that the city “supports the rights of the employees of United Maintenance to bargain collectively.”

During the 2011 mayoral campaign, as many of the largest public employees’ unions opposed Emanuel, he received a key endorsement from Teamsters leader John Coli.

United Maintenance CEO Richard Simon also is well-acquainted with the Teamsters. A review board appointed to root out corruption and mob influence in the Teamsters alleged in 2002 that Simon colluded with union bosses, including William Hogan Jr., to undermine the union’s contract in Las Vegas.

After the five-year O’Hare contract took effect in December, five aldermen asked Inspector General Joseph Ferguson to investigate. They cited a Chicago Sun-Times story that revealed how Simon sold a 50 percent stake in United Maintenance but did not report the ownership change to Emanuel administration officials for a year. That could have been grounds for voiding the contract, but Emanuel aides chose not to punish United Maintenance.

The mayor also shrugged off Simon’s business ties to an alleged organized-crime figure and United Maintenance’s employment of an executive who was indicted with the late Outfit boss Anthony “Big Tuna” Accardo.

 

http://www.suntimes.com/news/cityhall/19275483-418/new-ohare-janitors-opt-for-rival-union.html

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