Good Jobs, Safe Chicago

SEIU 099 Banner CropSaturday, March 23rd, 2013 saw Chicago Security Officers take a stand for Good Jobs and a Safe Chicago at Local 1’s Security Contract Convention. Security Officers are uniting in 2013 to fight for good jobs, better wages, and a safe and prosperous city for us all.


Leave a comment

Downtown Chicago Security Officers Don’t Feel Safe at Home

Antoinette Smith, SEIU Local 1 Security Officer

Antoinette Smith, SEIU Local 1 Security Officer

Antoinette Smith protects downtown Chicago. As a security officer on the CTA rails for five years, she is the first line of defense in a city that has become increasingly dangerous with a record high murder rate and fewer police on the streets. Antoinette and thousands of her fellow officers are fighting for a new union contract to secure a better future for their families. Security officers keep Chicago safe, but they don’t feel safe at home; they believe that higher wages for working families in Chicago’s most dangerous neighborhoods could help quell the violence.

Employed by private security companies, officers like Antoinette protect people taking public transportation, visiting or working in commercial office buildings and enjoying public spaces. Despite the danger and importance of their job, security officers are paid as little as $10 an hour, or $20,400 a year, which is below the poverty level for a family. Even though she works full time, Antoinette still struggles with monthly bills and earns so little that she qualifies for public aid.

Antoinette and her colleagues see a vital link between low wage workers’ struggle with poverty and the gun violence crisis in Chicago. Most SEIU Local 1 security officers live in Chicago’s West and South side neighborhoods where more than 80 percent of last year’s 534 murders occurred. After work, Antoinette returns home to Chatham on Chicago’s South Side, a neighborhood which has felt the costs of the city’s violence epidemic: “I went to nine funerals last year, and only one was for a person over 70,” she says.

While they help keep Chicago secure for workers, business and tourists, the officers do not feel safe at home and struggle to build a better future for their families. That’s why the officers launched a city-wide petition drive in support of President Obama’s legislative proposal to reduce gun violence. By uniting to both improve wages for security officers and address the epidemic of gun violence in Chicago, the officers are shining a light on the underlying cause of neighborhood violence: rising poverty and falling wages.

“We need better jobs. Better jobs lead to better communities. Better communities lead to a safe Chicago,” Antoinette contends. The city’s union security officers are calling on Chicago’s security contractors, corporations and banks to do their part and provide good jobs. Ensuring that workers have good, family-sustaining jobs is a direct route toward improving conditions in Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods and lowering the murder rate. Employers should take their cue from Antoinette: “We don’t live in a perfect world,” she says, “but we can make it better.”

Private security officers in Chicago organized a union to win better pay and a voice on the job in the 1970s. The officers have made great strides
by coming together, but the improvements to wages and standards have not kept pace with the wealth of the booming industry or the increasing demands of this important and dangerous job. The downtown security officers’ union contract expires April 21 and directly affects more than 2,000 Chicago officers. Bargaining will begin in late March.

Leave a comment

Malcolm Rashad

Malcolm RashadMalcolm Rashad has worked as a security officer for a company called Securatex for a year and a half. He currently works full-time protecting a Fresenius dialysis center on Chicago’s south side.

Malcolm works hard and puts himself at risk to keep the patients at Fresenius safe, yet he is paid just $8.75 an hour and doesn’t have access to affordable health insurance himself.

According to a recent survey of Securatex officers, Malcolm is not alone. A full third of officers who responded report that they rely on public assistance for health care. Effectively, taxpayers are subsidizing these poverty-wage jobs.

Malcolm can’t afford a place of his own on his Securatex wages, so he lives with his parents. He wants to go back to school, but he can’t afford that either. Malcolm’s situation is a sad example of how poverty-wage jobs trap hard-working people and their families in a cycle of poverty.

In addition to low wages, Malcolm and his coworkers have to struggle to compensate for chronic understaffing and near-constant turnover. Malcolm is often forced to work 13 to 16 hours at a time because the company cannot find officers to cover the shifts. High turnover and understaffing in the security industry means fewer experienced officers protecting our homes, offices, and health care facilities.

“When we need to go home after our shift they sometimes just say they have no one to cover us,” he says. “If we can’t stay over time they threaten to fire us.” Malcom says that officers are less alert if they are exhausted and overworked, and fears that this could lead to someone making a dangerous mistake.

Recently, Malcolm approached Securatex management to ask for more training. 66% of Securatex officers surveyed report that they received 8 or fewer hours of training before they started working, and 85% of respondents report that they have never received refresher training. Malcolm’s request was denied; Securatex refused to pay for more training. Malcolm and his coworkers believe that every Securatex officer should feel prepared for the important and dangerous job of protecting the public—that’s why they’re organizing a union.

Malcolm used to have a union job. He saw first-hand that having a union benefitted both workers and the public. He and his coworkers had benefits, fair wages, and affordable health care. Consequently, turnover was low.

“If we had a union, turnover would be lower, and we would have a way to fix problems at work,” Malcolm says.

Leave a comment

Janitors Union Chief: Ditch O’Hare Cleaning Contract [Chicago Sun-Times]

by Dan Mihalopoulos

The head of a politically powerful janitors’ union on Tuesday renewed calls for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to cancel a new cleaning contract at O’Hare Airport that could be worth almost $100 million.

Tom Balanoff, president of Service Employees International Union Local 1, alleged United Maintenance Co. Inc. violated the city’s rule requiring bidders for city business to provide officials with “current” information on their ownership.

Union member Oscar Sandoval joined SEIU Local 1 President Tom Balanoff at Tuesday's press conference.

Balanoff’s call followed a Chicago Sun-Times report that United executives took a year­ to update their initial report to the city and reveal how president and CEO Richard Simon had sold a 50 percent stake in the South Loop firm to a private-equity fund. By that time, United had landed the O’Hare deal.

“This is a serious deception,” Balanoff told reporters outside Emanuel’s office. “It’s important to know who owns these companies. We all know the history of Chicago. These [rules] were put in place to avoid conflicts of interest.”

Emanuel aides acknowledge Simon sold a 50 percent stake in United’s holding company to Loop-based Invision Capital I LP in December 2011 but did not inform the city of the ownership change until last month.

City purchasing rules dictate that economic-disclosure statements from bidders “must be kept current.” Failing to do so can result in the city voiding contracts.

But in a statement, the mayor’s office said “the city is not required to take any action” against companies that don’t file updated disclosures.

Emanuel spokeswoman Kathleen Strand told the Sun-Times administration officials believe United’s one-year delay in bringing its ownership disclosures current was an unintentional oversight.

Strand said the O’Hare contract was United’s first deal with the city. “So they’re not old hands” at filing the disclosures, she said.

Simon had been described as the firm’s sole owner when United first bid for the O’Hare deal in September 2011. The disclosure document submitted then was the only publicly filed record of United’s ownership until after the Emanuel administration awarded the $99.4 million contract on Oct. 31. The deal went into effect a month ago.

The statement from Emanuel’s office Tuesday also accused union leaders of a “campaign to smear the mayor.” The service employees’ union, which was neutral in the 2011 election that Emanuel won, has alleged for months that the United deal would cost its members jobs.

City officials added that background checks on “the current United owners” turned up no reason not to give them the airport custodial work.

But it’s unclear whether city officials know the identities of any of the investors who own the part of United that Simon sold.

In their disclosures filed with the city, Invision executives said none of the firm’s owners hold a stake of more than 7.5 percent. That’s the city’s minimum standard for disclosing a company’s owners.

Invision listed a general partner, Robert Castillo, in its filing with the city last month. Castillo has not returned repeated phone calls.

A spokesman for United declined comment Tuesday.

Leave a comment

New ‘hygienic’ toilet seats at O’Hare aren’t all that clean (VIDEO) [Chicago Sun-Times]

By Dan Mihalopoulos, Wednesday, January 28, 2013

The motorized “hygienic seats” that a controversial new janitorial contractor installed recently at O’Hare Airport are not very hygienic after all: As the plastic wrapping rotates over seats, it drags up liquid from the rim of toilet bowls and leaves drops of that liquid atop seats, on the clear plastic film that’s supposed to be clean.

A toilet seat cover malfunction at O'Hare International Airport. | Sun-Times Media

The new plastic-wrapped toilet seats are being installed throughout the airport by United Maintenance Co. Inc., the contractor that began work last month under a five-year, $99.4 million deal with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration.

On Monday, city officials and a top executive for United said they have experienced problems with water pressure and splashing at some O’Hare toilets. But Anthony D’Angelo, United’s director of compliance, said he did not know of the problem that the Chicago Sun-Times pointed out: “Our understanding is that it was clean water, not soiled water, on the seats.”

In a visit to a men’s restroom at O’Hare on Monday morning, the Sun-Times found that any liquid that happens to splash on the rim of a toilet bowl can end up on the seat, where the next user of the stall can unwittingly squat down onto a mess.

In the restrooms closest to the subway station at O’Hare, a reporter tested a reader complaint about the new seats by pouring some orange juice onto the rims of toilet bowls. After the reporter waved over the sensors that activate the hygienic seat motors, the plastic wrapping spun around the toilets—and some of the juice that had been on the rims ended up on the seats.

The same problem was not observed with the older seat covers that remain in use for now in other parts of the airport. D’Angelo said United chose to replace all existing hygienic seats after failing to reach agreement with the company that had supplied seat covers for the airport’s bathrooms for years.

The new “Sani Seat” devices installed on United’s watch are made by a company in New Jersey, according to the firm’s website. Company officials did not return calls Monday, but D’Angelo said that product was “vastly superior” to the old seats. “We think we’re doing a good job,” he said.

Unlike the old seats, the new devices do not feature a digital display indicating when a fresh cover is ready for use, even though United’s contract requires each stall to include “a display which clearly shows a new seat cover.”

The new seat covers also rotate when seats are up, the Sun-Times found, despite the requirement that they do not do that.

In a statement Monday, an Aviation Department spokeswoman said, “We are aware of no airport customer complaints about the toilet seat issue you mention.”

Emanuel also defended the deal with United recently after five aldermen called on the city’s inspector general to investigate it. The aldermen said they were responding to a Sun-Times report that United CEO Richard Simon sold 50 percent of the janitorial company in 2011 but did not disclose the transaction until a year later — after winning the O’Hare contract. Bidders for city business are required to provide city officials with current ownership information.

Watch the full video here!

Leave a comment

Illinois to Allow Undocumented Immigrants to Obtain Driver’s Licenses

On January 8th the Illinois House passed a law allowing all undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. This law states that all undocumented immigrants are now eligible to apply for a Temporary Visitor Driver’s License. The temporary visitor driver’s license will allow undocumented immigrants to drive to the store, bring children to school and various other tasks while in full agreement with Illinois driving laws.

To qualify for a temporary visitor driver’s license you must:

  • Prove you have lived in Illinois for at least one year
  • Provide a valid, unexpired passport or consular ID
  • Provide other proof of identity and residency that the Secretary of State might require
  • Provide documentation that you are not eligible for a Social Security Number
  • Pass all applicable vision, written, and road tests
  • Show proof of insurance for the vehicle you use for the road test
  • Pay a $30 fee

Need help obtaining a temporary driver’s license?

  • Contact the State Department:  800-252-8980
Leave a comment

Mayor Rahm Emanuel Eliminates Hundreds of Union Jobs [MSNBC, Up with Chris Hayes]

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Leave a comment

Mayor Risks Becoming Scrooge In O’Hare Labor Controversy [Walter Jacobsen, CBS]

Walter Jacobson

Walter Jacobson (CBS)


(CBS) — Did you hear those Christmas carols at Mayor Emanuel’s home, sung about the janitors at O’Hare?

The floor-washers, window-wipers, the toilet-scrubbers at O’Hare, caroling for their salaries, walking in the dark and cold, pleading with Mr. Mayor to save their jobs.

Please, they sing, don’t pink-slip us, not now, sir, not before Christmas.

Do you hear them, Mr. Mayor?

Are you listening to the pleas of 300 janitors being fired before Christmas, so that you can hire new janitors for less pay, so that you can save $11 million in your $8 billion budget?

Minority janitors, immigrant janitors who have followed their dreams to the middle class in Chicago, working jobs that most people don’t want, for $12 or $13 an hour — being knocked down to the bottom class.

To save a few million out of $8 billion?

That’s not being Mr. Mayor at Christmas. It’s being Mr. Scrooge.

Leave a comment

Is the Mob cleaning up at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport? [Daily Kos]

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:

Today’s O’Hare Mob Connection


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.

O’Hare janitors stand up for their rights

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.

Leave a comment

[WGN] Mob questions mount in story WGNTV first broke

Check out the video and full story here!

Mark Suppelsa, Marsha Bartel WGN News – December 5, 2012
Mayor Emanuel was forced to defend his pick to give a $99 million dollar contract to United Maintenance for cleaning up O’Hare.  It’s a story first broken by WGN-TV.

Now we uncover more about the checkered past of men the CEO of this company has surrounded himself with.

Leave a comment