A threatened Rule 41–a notice by an alderman to discharge an ordinance stalled in committee – has fizzled for the second time in as many months, following last month’s fumbled plot to force a vote on the Keeping The Promise Ordinance, legislation that would place more City Council oversight of the Chicago Housing Authority.
This month, it would have forced a Council vote on a SEIU-backed ordinance that’s part of the union’s larger effort to increase wages and job security for airport service workers. In both cases, the administration was able to circumvent a floor vote by agreeing to meet with interested parties.
Ald. Ameya Pawar (47) filed a notice with the City Clerk’s Office announcing his intention to discharge the ordinance requiring labor peace agreements between airliners that lease gates at O’Hare Airport and their subcontractors–the companies that employ janitorial staff, baggage handlers, cabin cleaners, and security.
But now, SEIU has finally grabbed the attention of the Administration–likely helped by an onslaught of negative attack ads and protests targeting some of the mayor’s closest allies on the City Council. Due to ongoing, productive talks on the labor issues, Ald. Pawar told The Daily Line he’s not going to force a vote Wednesday.
In a press release, SEIU confirmed it’s having “positive discussions” with the administration and quoted SEIU Local 1 President Tom Balanoff in saying, “We’re working with the Emanuel administration on a process to raise standards for these hardworking men and women, because no worker at O’Hare or Midway—or anywhere in our city—should be making poverty wages.”
The SEIU-backed ordinance, of which there are two versions (O2017-225 & O2017-3289), would impact all future lease agreements at O’Hare and Midway Airports. It’s part of the labor organization’s efforts to increase wages and benefits for all airport service workers who allege widespread wage theft and poor working conditions. The first ordinance was introduced to Aviation Committee in January, the latter to Workforce Committee in April.
SEIU has been working to organize these service employees for more than a year. They’ve orchestrated several protests and walkouts at O’Hare, sometimes with aldermen present in solidarity.
In February, SEIU issued mailers and scheduled patch-through auto-calls targeting several aldermen, including Aviation Committee Chair Mike Zalewski (23) for not sponsoring the ordinance. Fliers from a protest outside Zalewski’s office said he “refused to stand with hardworking men and woman at the airport. Instead, he has sided with huge corporations like United and American Airlines!” (Mail Pieces 1 / 2 / 3 ).
This month they rolled out another negative mail campaign against Ald. Pat O’Connor (40), the second most tenured member of the City Council and Chair of its Workforce Committee.
Though the original ordinance has spent more time languishing in Ald. Michael Zalewski’s (23) Aviation Committee, Ald. O’Connor was the sole target of the six-piece campaign. (Mail pieces: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6)
The ordinance was crafted shortly after Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans told aldermen during last year’s budget hearing that her department has no recourse to force these labor agreements, because airport service workers are “third-step removed”, meaning they’re employed by subcontractors hired by the airliners, not the city.
This ordinance would work around that issue, by requiring airliners to agree to fair wage standards for subcontractors when they apply for a lease agreement with the city. The written agreement can either be an affirmation to provide wages and benefits aligned with the Building Owners Managers Association of Chicago (BOMA), or to enter into a “labor peace agreement”.
Labor peace agreements are typically used to cover hotels, restaurants, casinos, and airports that either receive public funding or do business with a local municipality, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Under the written arrangement between a union and an employer, both sides agree to waive certain labor rights granted under federal law, such as the right to organize or go on strike, as long as the employer treats the workers as a collective bargaining unit, essentially giving them the ability to negotiate wages and benefits.