Pat Barcas photo
SEIU Local 1 janitors presented a cake and lit birthday candles to Mayor Emanuel, who wasn’t there to receive them Nov. 29. Janitors wanted to make it known that they may not have jobs in the coming weeks due to the city hiring a non-union contractor for janitorial work at O’Hare.
By Pat Barcas
Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012
CHICAGO — Dozens of SEIU Local 1 airport janitors descended upon Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Ravenswood home Nov. 29 to wish him a happy 53rd birthday, but also to call upon the fact that many of the janitors will be losing their jobs in a few weeks due to a city-made decision to use non-union labor at O’Hare airport.
Former Mayor Richard M. Daley privatized almost 300 O’Hare janitorial jobs in 2005, a move the workers were in agreement with because the company that employed them, Scrub Inc., paid $15.45 an hour and provided benefits.
Now, the city has accepted a non-union bid from United Maintenance Company, which has announced it will pay workers only $11.90 an hour, and SEIU says it does not expect United to provide health insurance. Current workers may also be replaced entirely under the new contract, as United isn’t bound to terms with SEIU.
“I want to tell Mayor Emanuel that this isn’t right,” said Jermaine Samples, a single dad and an O’Hare janitor for four years. “I live in the Austin area. I have 1,000 friends and I’m the only one with a job. I want the mayor to walk a day in our shoes, live our life and see our trials. We have families to provide for. The mayor is not helping Chicago’s kids by cutting their parents wages.”
Many of the janitors wore large stickers on their backs with pictures of Emanuel, and the words “job killer” next to it, as they sang happy birthday in English, Spanish and Polish. SEIU Local 1 says this latest decision by Emanuel continues a pattern of cutting good jobs to help irresponsible contractors and large corporations increase their profits at the expense of good middle-class jobs for Chicago.
According to SEIU, over the last decade, airline profits have risen dramatically, while service jobs at the nation’s second busiest airport continue to pay less and offer fewer benefits, leaving more and more Chicagoans to be forced to rely on taxpayer-funded assistance.
The latest ongoing spotlight on Emanuel won’t be the last, as workers fight for their well paying jobs.
“It’s no coincidence that Rahm decided to start up a new contract now. It’s the holiday season, everyone’s busy, he’s smart, he knows this might slip under the radar,” said Lonnell Saffold, director of institutional services for SEIU Local 1. “We’re not going to let up. We’ve got some things planned for this winter.”
Pat Barcas’ e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.