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Teamsters back away from representing O’Hare janitors

Updated: June 18, 2013 8:08AM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s allies in the Teamsters union leadership have backed away from trying to represent airport janitors working for a company the mayor hired last year over objections from other labor leaders.

The Service Employees International Union had complained that hundreds of its members lost their jobs because of a five-year, $99.4 million janitorial contract Emanuel signed with United Maintenance Cos. Inc. for O’Hare Airport.

Last month, the Teamsters claimed to have the backing of a majority of United Maintenance’s O’Hare janitors. Now, the Teamsters say they no longer want to represent the airport janitors.

“Please be advised the Teamsters Local Union No. 727 hereby disclaim any and all representational interest in the previously recognized unit of airport workers,” Teamsters boss John Coli said in a May 6 letter to United Maintenance.

Coli gave Emanuel a key endorsement during his 2011 run for mayor, even as other labor leaders scorned Emanuel.

SEIU leaders, who stayed out of the 2011 campaign, say most of United Maintenance’s airport janitors now want to join their union.

SEIU filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board in early April, saying United Maintenance “unlawfully coerced” its O’Hare employees to join the Teamsters.

Jerry Morrison, a top aide to SEIU boss Thomas Balanoff, said the Teamsters abandoned its effort to organize the airport janitors “pursuant to a jurisdictional agreement” with his union.

Thomas Mandler, a lawyer for United Maintenance, said earlier this week that the company had negotiated a contract with the Teamsters but would look into SEIU officials’ claim that the janitors want to be represented by them.

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