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Mayor blasted for replacing O’Hare janitors

Service Employees International Unijanitorial workers protest outside City Hall after Mayor Rahm Emanuel awarded janitorial contract firm thhas alleged mob

Service Employees International Union janitorial workers protest outside City Hall after Mayor Rahm Emanuel awarded a janitorial contract to a firm that has alleged mob ties. Tuesday, December 11, 2012. I Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 13, 2013 6:19AM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel was branded a “hypocrite” on Tuesday for championing the middle-class at the national level and giving them the shaft locally—by awarding a $99 million O’Hare Airport janitorial contract to a company replacing 300 union custodians with lower-paid, non-union janitors.

Four aldermen—Roderick Sawyer (6th), Rick Munoz (22nd), Scott Waguespack (32nd) and Nick Sposato (36th) said the United Maintenance contract is part of a “disturbing trend” that has seen Emanuel sell out middle-class workers to save a few bucks.

Citing allegations of mob ties to United Maintenance owner Rick Simon, the aldermen demanded that Emanuel re-bid the United contract in the short-term and adopt the “responsible bidders” ordinance to prevent a repeat.

“We know it’ll cost us more money, but it’s the socially responsible thing to do….There’s no way that anybody can agree that, simply to save a nickel here and a nickel there that we should put all of these families out on the street,” Munoz said.

“The issue here is whether, in being fiscally responsible, we’re being socially irresponsible…What’s going on at O’Hare is socially irresponsible because these men and women…are being let go right before the holiday season and replaced by employees who make less.”

Waguespack noted that Emanuel never stopped talking about the middle-class while campaigning for President Barack Obama’s re-election.

“Saying one thing on one side. Coming out and doing another thing on the other side. Is it two-faced? Is it hypocritical? It might be both of those things,” he said.

The aldermen were joined at a City Hall news conference by two O’Hare janitors, who were fired Friday from their jobs with Scrub, Inc., the company United Maintenance is replacing.

Mildred Rueda, 35, fought back tears as he she talked about the pain of being out of a job that paid $15.80-an-hour with full benefits two weeks before Christmas.

“Normally I go out and buy gifts, but I don’t know [this year]. I really don’t know what’s gonna happen. I’m grateful because I do have my family. But as far as celebrating, there isn’t any,” Rueda said.

“They’re taking my job away from me and giving it to somebody else. It’s unfair…I would like [Emanuel] to re-think this and make a better decision…A lot of us will be without a job and we really don’t know what we’re gonna do. It’s hard now the way the economy is.”

Jermaine Samples, who also cleans the washrooms at O’Hare, said he applied for a job with United, even though the company is offering $11.90-an-hour with no guarantee of full-time work.

“When you say, we’ve got to stand in line and apply with the general public for our jobs that they’re giving away, it’s not right. Every day, there’s maybe 500 or 400 people who start lining up at 5 in the morning,” said Samples, 25.

United Maintenance says it has offered jobs to roughly 380 people, 100 of whom worked for Scrub.

“Those workers have already recognized the improved work environment they will have with United. Their health insurance, dental and vision coverage and pension plan are all superior to what they now receive, while they will continue to be paid above the prevailing wage,” the company said in a statement released after the news conference.

“They will also be working in a more diverse environment, as the previous contractor agreed to pay a $3 million settlement over allegations of discriminatory hiring practices---allegations that SEIU leadership spent years ignoring.”

The Chicago Sun-Times reported last week that United Maintenance owner Richard Simon was involved in another company with alleged mob figure William Daddano Jr.—from 1998 until that firm was officials disbanded on Dec. 17, 2011, according to state records.

Emanuel brushed aside the allegations, arguing that the contract was competitively-bid and would be closely-monitored by City Hall.

On Tuesday, the mayor’s office responded to the aldermanic blast with a statement that claims Emanuel “always puts middle-class families first” and has been a “passionate fighter” on their behalf--from cracking down on pay-day lenders that prey on struggling families to forging “innovative partnerships” with labor and holding the line on property and sales taxes.

The statement also reiterated the mayor’s commitment to, what he called a “competitive and fair bidding process” and workplace diversity.

“We are pleased that the new vendor, which is a union firm, is committed to diversity in its hiring practices and avoiding the mistakes of previous contractors at the airport,” the statement said.

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