Thousands of Underpaid Passenger Service Workers, Security Officers, and Janitors at O’Hare Airport to Join the Fight for $15 Movement

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Workers Rally For Better Pay at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport

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O’Hare Workers Join Fight For $15; Fast Food Laborers Bring Wage Campaign To Chicago Suburbs

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Indianapolis Security Officers Make History!

Newly ratified contract recognizes Indy’s first ever union of Security Officers.

CONTACT: Izabela Miltko – – 708-655-9681

INDIANAPOLIS – By a significant margin, Indianapolis security officers ratified their first ever collective bargaining agreement on August 8, 2015. The 4-year contract welcomes the officers to Service Employees International Union Local 1, secures wage increases over the life of the contract, and provides officers access to the best healthcare packages available to them starting next year.


Officer Robert Smith (Center) and Local 1’s Amy Teitelman (right).

“This is a new day for the security industry in Indianapolis and a huge boost for our local economy,” said SEIU Local 1 Coordinator Amy Teitelman.  “This campaign began in 2010, and to see the hard work of these officers pay off now five years later is yet another piece of the resurgence of organized labor in Indiana.”

The historic contract goes into effect on September 1, 2015 and guarantees:

  • Respect on the job. Under the new contract, harassment and discrimination will not be tolerated
  • Grievance and arbitration process. If an officer is unjustly disciplined, or the contract is violated, the employee or union can file a grievance and involve third-party arbitration if necessary.
  • Annual wage increases. Substantial raises each year allowing officers to build a better future for their families over the course of their contract. 
  • Access to quality healthcare. The new contract provides access to healthcare packages with the lowest deductible and most affordable premiums in Indy security history.
  • Vacation and paid time off for full-time officers. Officers now have seven paid holidays and are eligible for vacation pay and personal days.

The officers will join over 600 janitors in the Indianapolis division of SEIU Local 1. The janitors will host a welcoming party for nearly 300 new members on September 12 with allies and elected officials on the guest list.

“This is an historic moment,” said Indianapolis Security Officer Robert Smith. “It took us years to get here, but now we have a good first contract and we’re in great position to grow our union. It’s an important day for security officers, an important day for SEIU, and an important day for Indianapolis.”

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Service Employees International Union Local 1 unites nearly 50,000 workers throughout the Midwest. SEIU janitors, security officers, food service workers, and others are working with community leaders to advocate for the quality services the public deserves and the good jobs our communities need.

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Janitors Raise Milwaukee with Good Jobs

Milwaukee Janitors Approve Three-Year Contract Benefiting Both Their Families and Communities

Monday August 3, 2015

CONTACT: Izabela Miltko  708-655-9681

MILWAUKEE–By an overwhelming margin, SEIU Local 1 janitors in Milwaukee approved a new union contract increasing their ability to support their families and providing a more accessible benefits package. This contract covers 350 janitors in downtown Milwaukee and is the first three-year agreement to be approved since 2009.

“These economic gains will directly benefit our region’s economy for years to come, helping hardworking families build a better Milwaukee for generations,” said SEIU Local 1 Wisconsin Coordinator Dave Somerscales. “Local 1 is leading the way for all working people – when you stand up together and bargain collectively, we all win.”

The new three-year contract, which went into effect on August 1, guarantees wage increases over the life of the contract.  A key negotiations goal for the janitors was to ensure that their employers agree to yearly increases toward the provided health insurance.

“This is a huge victory for Milwaukee,” said SEIU Local 1 member employed by Modern Maintenance Maria Sada. “This will be the first time since 2009 that we won a three-year contract with raises and benefits improving each year over the life of the agreement. By standing together and working with our employers, we have created the kind of jobs that will benefit all of Milwaukee.”


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

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Window washers ratify 3-year agreement

chi-window-washers-seiu-ct0029676184-20150629 (1)

Carlos Perez, center, a lead organizer for Service Employees International Union Local 1, leads chants with window washers and their supporters during a rally for better wages June 29, 2015, in Chicago. Window washers “overwhelmingly” ratified a three-year labor contract July 22, 2015, that includes a pay raise.  (Michael Noble Jr. / Chicago Tribune)

By Alejandra Cancino, Chicago Tribune July 22, 2015, 8:09 p.m. Window washers “overwhelmingly” ratified a three-year labor contract that would raise wages by up to 16 percent over the life of the agreement, the union said Wednesday. “It’s a good step but it’s not the end,” said Tom Balanoff, president of the Service Employees International Union Local 1. Balanoff said the agreement, which covers 235 window washers, was reached last week and averted a strike. The union negotiated with Corporate Cleaning Services and seven other companies that bargained together in a coalition. The workers, who now make from $11.15 to $17.65 per hour, will earn as much as $20.50 by the end of the contract, Balanoff said. The contract also calls for employers to pay 60 percent of health care insurance premiums, rather than a set amount, meaning companies will share cost increases with workers. Despite those wins, a point system workers sought to end was expanded and could be used by all eight companies. Under the system, a worker gets a set amount of points, or hours, to clean a building’s windows. If the window washers finish the work early, the company pays them commission. But if they work beyond the time allowed, they don’t get any additional pay. Workers felt the system forced them to rush and take shortcuts, often at the expense of safety. Window washer Cruz Guzman, 24, said the expansion of the system is disappointing, but the new contract contains language that keeps companies from lowering points and protects workers who chose to work on an hourly rate, rather than the point system. It also establishes seniority rights to protect older workers. Guzman said he sees the contract as a foundation. “We have a lot more to work on,” he said. Neal S. Zucker, chief executive of Corporate Cleaning Services, said in a statement that he believes the agreement is fair. “As Chicago’s largest, all-union window-washing company, Corporate Cleaning Services is proud to have led negotiations on behalf of not only our employees, but for all window washers in Chicago,” Zucker said.

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Window Washers Push for Higher Wages

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Milwaukee City Council Unanimously Passes Responsible Bidder’s Ordinance

Janitors have been fighting to raise standards in property services throughout Milwaukee for more than a decade. During that time, SEIU Local 1 members rallied in the streets, traveled and lobbied the State Capitol in Madison, stood with striking fast food workers, and have even risked their jobs and their livelihood standing side-by-side with security officers attempting to form a union.

Nearly one year ago, the janitors’ union wrote and proposed a Responsible Bidder’s Ordinance to the Milwaukee City Council. Allies along with Aldermen Tony Zielinski and Nik Kovac co-sponsored the ordinance and championed the janitors’ cause.

MKE janitors for WP smallLast week, Milwaukee’s Responsible Bidder Ordinance was passed by a unanimous 14-0 vote by the Milwaukee City Council and signed into law by Mayor Tom Barrett. The ordinance will empower the city to ensure that no irresponsible contractors get city tax dollars to perform janitorial services – preventing irresponsible contractors from winning public work without making operational changes. The law will also cover the security and food service industries, solidifying responsible public contracting in those sectors as well.

The unanimous passing of this Responsible Bidder’s Ordinance illustrates how fostering strong relationships with elected officials will help lift the entire city of Milwaukee with good jobs.

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As Detroit-area janitors set out to bargain a new union contract that affects 1,500 workers and their families…


DETROIT –Hundreds of SEIU Local 1 janitors kicked off contract negotiations today by rallying for good jobs downtown Detroit.  They rallied at the New Center One Building, the Fisher Building and Albert Kahn.

“We want a Detroit that is thriving and successful for everyone,” SEIU Local 1 Michigan State Coordinator Jennifer Disla said. “Workers must have a place at the table in Detroit’s rebuilding.”

These janitors, whose contract for 1,450 janitors in Southeast Michigan (Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb Counties) expires on July 31st, clean buildings of major corporations and public facilities like Detroit Public Schools. The average downtown janitor is paid a little over $24,000 a year, and many receive public assistance. Some are considered “very low income” according to Federal HUD income limits.

“When people ask what does a union mean to you? I say that the union means having a future,” Janitor Niya Reed said. “I love Detroit. I want my kids to have a Detroit as Detroit should be, and the way to do that is raise wages for workers like me.”

Today’s rally was the first in a series of demonstrations that will highlight the needs for good jobs as Detroit moves forward in its rebuilding. Janitors in Detroit are joining nearly 131,820 SEIU janitors in cities across the country — janitors from Los Angeles, Seattle, and New York — whose union contracts also expire in 2015 and 2016. Detroit janitors’ negotiations begin in June.

BACKGROUND: SEIU Local 1 commercial janitors are covered by the Master Agreement and clean a wide variety of facilities in the Metro Detroit Region including prominent office buildings, factories, government facilities, the airport, and even some Detroit Public Schools. Among the buildings served by Local 1 janitors are:  the Ally Detroit Center, First National Building, Compuware, the Renaissance Center, Ford World Headquarters, Comerica Bank (411 Building), Detroit Edison Plaza, DTE Energy Building,  Wayne County’s Guardian Building and Southfield Town Center. Their contract expires on July 31st, 2015.



3 takeaways from $15 minimum wage rallies, fast-food strikes


About 300 people participated in a march and rally Wednesday calling for a $15 minimum wage. The Cleveland rally was among more than 200 that took place nationally, as part of the Fight for 15 campaign. In this photo, demonstrators march along Euclid Avenue, near Cleveland State University. (photo courtesy SEIU District 1199)
Olivera Perkins, The Plain Dealer By Olivera Perkins, The Plain Dealer
on April 16, 2015 at 9:50 AM, updated April 16, 2015 at 11:09 AM

 CLEVELAND, Ohio – The rally was over, but somehow it felt like a beginning.

The demonstrators, numbering nearly 300, marched along the sidewalks of Euclid Avenue as evening rush hour traffic crawled by. Even though most had walked a mile to the event, which supported increasing the minimum wage to $15, many still had pep in their step for the return trip home.

They chanted with conviction: “I believe that we will win!” An African drum accompanied them as left the rally that had been in front of Cleveland State University. Some demonstrators held signs such as: “Poverty-Wage Jobs HOLD CLEVELAND BACK.”

Cleveland was one of more than 200 cities Wednesday where people had rallies, candlelight vigils, engaged in fast-food strikes and other actions as part of the Fight for 15 campaign, which is part of Service Employees International Union.

“This isn’t the end,” said Al Bacon, secretary/treasurer of SEIU District 1199, the rally’s last speaker. “This is a giant step forward.”

In many ways it was. The event was notable because of the number of people who participated locally and because it was the largest national action to date by Fight for 15. The event also stood out because of the cross-section of participants.

Demonstrators had taken different roads to the rally. This could be viewed as a literal statement. The home care workers had begun their march from the SEIU union hall on East 30th Street. The adjunct professors had left from the Cuyahoga Community College Metro campus.

Taking different paths, but ending up in the same place was also symbolic. While some held PhDs and others only GEDs, they all complained of earning less than $15 an hour. The median hourly wage for home care workers is about $9.60, according to Labor Department data. Adjunct professors nationally make about $2,700 per class per semester, according to SEIU. Many adjuncts say that when one considers the non-teaching duties, most of them make less than $15 an hour. The union, which represents many home care workers, is also organizing adjuncts nationally.

In Cleveland, as nationally, this was the first raise-the-minimum-wage rally representing an array of occupations. For many of the demonstrators, this was an indication that the struggle of low-wage workers was not fleeting – something only capable of grabbing headlines with actions — such as one-day strikes by fast-food or Walmart workers — and then being forgotten. For many of them, the scope and size of the tax day actions were proof that struggles of low-wage workers, highlighted with the first fast-food strikes 2 ½ years ago, were expanding and maturing. It was, by most measures, a movement.

“It is significant because it represents workers in general, not just a specific type of worker, coming together,” said Yanela Sims, Northern Ohio coordinator for SEIU Local 1, of Wednesday’s demonstrations. “If workers don’t stand together, we will all crumble.

It is a strong workers’ movement, and it is really exciting for our city.”

Sandra Ellington, a janitor at Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport, said she found a sense of power in marching and rallying with workers from various occupations.

“The working-class Americans are sticking together and they are saying, ‘Enough is enough,'” she said. “No matter who you are, no matter what you do, we are all valued and valuable. It is important that we keep this fight moving forward.”

When Walmart recently announced it would raise its minimum wage to $10 by next year and McDonald’s said it would raise its minimum wage to $9.90 at its corporate-run restaurants this summer, many wondered if such developments would take the steam out of the low-wage workers’ movement. After all, protesters had gotten at least some of what they were looking for.

Harriet Applegate, who heads the North Shore AFL-CIO Federation of Labor, said bigger victories are yet to come. She said it was significant that nearly 300 participated in the Cleveland rally.

“It symbolizes that there is a huge need for people to make a living wage,” she said. “It is long overdue. People can’t live a decent life. It is a terrible thing.

“I think this is the beginning of a wave that will bring about change,” Applegate said of the low-wage workers’ movement.

Three Takeaways from the $15 Minimum Wage Rallies, Fast-food Strikes, etc.

1. The low-wage workers’ movement is expanding in scope – Wednesday’s protests included participants from several occupations, including: adjunct professors, home care workers, child care workers, airport workers, industrial laundry workers, Walmart and other retail workers. College students also participated. In Cleveland, students from CSU, Kent State University, Oberlin College and Tri-C participated.

David Wilder, an art and art history adjunct who teaches at Cuyahoga Community College and John Carroll University, said the efforts of fast food and retail workers for better pay had motivated him to do the same for adjuncts. Wilder said he is helping to organize adjuncts at John Carroll.

He said he is among those pushing to get John Carroll to adopt the Jesuit Just Employment Policy, which among other things, Wilder said calls for “a living wage” and the right to join a union. He said the adjuncts turned in a 200-signature petition to the university Tuesday. John Carroll did not respond to The Plain Dealer’s requests regarding the matter.

2. Opponents of the $15 minimum wage are increasing their efforts – Seeing the impact of many of the low-wage workers’ actions, some groups opposed to raising the minimum wage have increased their efforts. For example, a day before the tax day protests, the Washington, D.C.-based Employment Policies Institute, which opposes unions, launched The group says the website “chronicles the real stories of small businesses and how they’ve adapted to drastic minimum wage hikes.”

3. Low-wage workers’ protests fuel research – Think tanks, advocacy organizations and universities often release analyses or reports in the days leading up to national low-wage workers’ demonstrations.

Among those recently released is an analysis of government data by the National Employment Law Project, which showed that half of the 10 occupations expected to grow the most by 2022 will have median hourly wages below $12. These jobs include: personal care aides, retail sales clerks, home health aides, food prep and serving workers (including fast food) and janitors and cleaners.

report by Restaurant Opportunities Centers United found that nearly half the families of full-service restaurant workers are enrolled in one or more public-assistance programs. The reports said these subsidies amount to more than $9.4 billion a year.

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