Aldermen resolve to hold companies responsible

By Darryl Holliday

According to some city aldermen, many private companies are taking advantage of workers and city taxpayers through unethical low bidding for service contracts.

The Responsible Contractor Resolution, aimed at ensuring workers receive fair wages, was introduced at Chicago’s City Hall on Feb. 9. Aldermen Ricardo Munoz (22nd Ward), Rey Colon (35nd Ward) and Sandi Jackson (7th Ward) held a press conference with members of Service Employees International Union Local 1 on Feb. 10 to announce the resolution.

“The city needs a way—an ordinance—that will hold contractors accountable for taxpayer dollars,” Munoz said.

According to Munoz and Tom Balanoff, president of SEIU Local 1, Universal Security Corporation is an example of a private contractor skirting city labor law for profit. The company provides security services for O’Hare and Midway airports and was recently sued by current and former employees for failing to pay employee wages, benefits and hours worked.

The resolution, which is non-binding, seeks to hold contractors accountable for their use of taxpayer money by restricting companies from repeatedly bidding at a lower cost than their service is worth. Under current city law, contracts are awarded to companies that provide the lowest bid for service. This can lead to companies cutting wages and benefits to provide that low bid, effectively edging out companies with responsible practices.

“I think it’s important we have continuity throughout all of our laws,” Jackson said, noting that if a company is found to have violated a federal law, it should not be able to find work in Illinois.

The proposal is in line with a recent ordinance Munoz sponsored, “Stable Jobs, Stable Airports Ordinance,” which could extend the city’s “living wage” standards to concessionaires at the city’s airports.

More than 1,500 employees making countless $10 burgers at Midway and O’Hare airports will now be able to make at least $11.03 an hour, though airport consumer prices may rise as a result.

The pro-union “Stable Jobs” ordinance, co-sponsored by 29 aldermen, would also provide contracted workers with other job-security benefits, such as requiring airport concession owners to retain employees for 90 days after replacing the

contracted employer.

Though the Responsible Contractor proposal differs from an ordinance because it is non-binding and relatively unenforceable, the co-sponsoring aldermen hope to transition the resolution into hearings and eventually into local law.

“We’re not asking for anything exorbitant,” Balanoff said.