On Thursday afternoon, a group of SEIU* Local 1 members gathered outside City Hall to protest the layoffs of 50 Chicago union janitors and to call for a new labor contract ordinance.
Earlier this month, the city awarded a new janitorial service contract to Dayspring, Inc., a non-union janitorial services company in South Holland, Ill. The 50 union janitors aren’t being retained and will be out of work starting today. On Wednesday, Dayspring Human Resources Manager Marvin Richardson told Progress Illinois that the decisions the city of Chicago makes has little to do with his company. He said Dayspring is simply trying to fulfill a contract.
SEIU Local 1 President Tom Balanoff led Thursday’s protest of the new contract and demanded city council set in motion the Responsible Bidders Ordinance. The ordinance would place minimum requirements on worker retention, wages and health care benefits. Balanoff says 31 aldermen support it.
After the protest, Balanoff told Progress Illinois that he hopes Mayor Rahm Emanuel will reconsider the contract and put out the bid again. He also said he wants Ald. Patrick O’Connor (40th), who is chairman of the Workforce Development and Audit Committee, to bring the ordinance to a committee vote.
“Politicians need to understand that people go to work and work hard, and they’ve got to be able to get ahead,” said Balanoff.
Here's more from Balanoff at the rally held outside of City Hall:
One of the people who will not be able to go to work after June 29 is Regina Watson, who has been a janitor at the 5th District Police Station, located at 727 E. 111th St., for 13 years. She said she’s worked for three different contractors while at the police station, but this is the first time a non-union shop has taken over. Watson said her husband works at a minimum wage job, and she’s the breadwinner. Watson also said she’s diabetic, and without health insurance, one bottle of insulin costs $101 and only lasts three weeks. “I don’t know what we’re going to do,” she said.
Pamela Broughton, one of Watson’s co-workers at the police station, is also losing her job. Broughton has worked for the city for 8 years, and said in the past, every time a new contractor took over work at the police station, they kept the custodians that were already working. She said she has two sons, ages 23 and 24, but they only have part-time jobs.
“I have to pay my rent, my landlord isn’t going to let me live there for free,” said Broughton. As for Mayor Emanuel, she said “we helped get him in and now he’s kicking us out. We’re a piece of garbage [to him].”
A member of the Chicago City Council also held the mayor accountable for the contractor situation. Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) said it’s important to look at the different areas Emanuel is cutting funds. Waguespack pointed to the Emanuel administration’s cutting of library hours and 911 operators along with the closing of mental health clinics as indicators of the mayor's view of contract bids.
“They (the mayor’s administration) have to know that they have a responsibility to taxpayers, and it doesn’t mean thinking that you’re going to save money by skipping over issues like prevailing wages, training, and safety, and then getting a better bottom dollar. That’s not what it’s always about,” said Waguespack.
Waguespack said he’s in favor of the Responsible Bidders Ordinance, but added that it will be tough to pass. “The SEIU is going to have to convince aldermen that the ordinance will protect their tax-paying constituents, and that the end result is a better quality of work,” he said.
* The SEIU Illinois Council sponsors this web site.