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Aldermen Calling For Controversial O’Hare Janitorial Contract To Be Re-Bid

Union workers gather outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office at City Hall on Nov. 9, 2012, to protest a move to replace union custodians at O'Hare International Airport with non-union workers, under a new contract with a different custodial firm. (Credit: CBS)

Union workers gather outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office at City Hall on Nov. 9, 2012, to protest a move to replace union custodians at O’Hare International Airport with non-union workers, under a new contract with a different custodial firm. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Some Chicago aldermen said Tuesday that the city’s janitorial contract at O’Hare International Airport should be rebid, over concerns about the layoffs the contract would mean for union janitors, as well as the company’s ties to mob figures.

WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports about 300 union custodians who work for Scrub, Inc., are being pushed out, after the Emanuel administration awarded a new janitorial contract at O’Hare to United Maintenance, a non-union firm.

“It’s just not right, like 10 days before Christmas, you give somebody a letter saying that they’re going to be laid off. It’s just not right,” said janitor Jermaine Samples.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore Reports

The current janitors’ union, SEIU Local 1, has said the jobs the company is offering have much lower salaries, and fewer benefits.

But the company said Tuesday it has offered jobs to roughly 380 people, including more than 100 current O’Hare custodians who have filled out job applications.

It claimed the health insurance, dental and vision coverage, and pension plans it will provide are superior to those workers’ current benefits. For example it said its health plan has no limit on medical claims, and covers 70 to 90 percent of the costs for out-of-network claims, while current O’Hare janitors have a $400,000 limit on claims, and no coverage for out-of-network claims.

United also said some Scrub, Inc., employees who have been hired will be making $2 to $4.60 more per hour.

The city has said United will work with the current custodians to find them jobs, but there are no guarantees those workers will keep their jobs, and if they did, it would most likely be for much lower pay and fewer benefits.

Ald. Rick Munoz (22nd) was incensed that many veteran custodians at O’Hare are being laid off so close to the holidays.

“What’s going on over at O’Hare … socially is irresponsible, because these men and women who have been laboring day in and day out are being let go right before the holiday season, and being replaced by employees who make less,” Munoz said. “Are we in favor of the bottom line that simply saves money and rushes to the bottom, and races and pushes contractors to pay the lowest wage possible? Or are we looking at a bottom line that helps middle-class Chicago be a better Chicago?”

The switch in janitorial companies at O’Hare means no holiday for 7-year janitor Mildred Rueda.

“I mean, I’m grateful because I do have my family, but as far as celebrating, there isn’t any,” Rueda said.

But United Maintenance said in a news release Tuesday that neither Rueda nor Samples has applied for a job with the company.

Munoz and Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) are among a number of aldermen who have said the custodial contract at O’Hare should be rebid.

“It’s not only very un-Chicagoan, but it’s very un-American to essentially bring in companies that decide that they’re going to cut wages in order to provide a more so-called efficient and fair contract,” Waguespack.

Aldermen have also raised concerns about the mob ties of some of top executives at the new custodial contractor.

Paul Fosco, the executive vice president of United Maintenance’s parent firm, United Service, served time in federal prison on mob racketeering charges, along with co-defendant and former Chicago mob boss Anthony Accardo. The Chicago Crime Commission has an entire file on Fosco.

And United Maintenance owner Richard Simon was once business partners with reputed mob figure William Daddano, Jr.

“What we’ve seen is allegations about mob ties that is really unsettling for the people of Chicago, and for City Council members,” Waguespack said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has defended the contract with United Maintenance, saying it was competitively bid.