About 350 O'Hare International Airport janitors are set to lose their jobs Friday as a new contract Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration controversially awarded to another firm that plans to rely on non-union workers begins.
The deal has been met with repeated protests. The soon-to-be laid-off workers protested outside Emanuel's home Thursday evening while singing Christmas carols and praying, ABC Chicago reports.
Nevertheless, on Friday they will be handing in their IDs and badges as part of the five-year $99 million deal that the mayor has said will save the city millions of dollars.
Despite allegations that the contract-winning firm United Maintenance has mob ties, prompting a group of Chicago aldermen and even a key mayoral union ally to join the workers in their call for the contract to be rebid, the mayor has refused to change course.
Emanuel pointed out to NBC Chicago that about 100 of the former O'Hare employees represented by the Service Employees International Union Local 1 are being rehired under the new contract. He further claims that some of those workers will actually be paid more and have better health benefits under the new contract, despite the union's claims otherwise.
The pre-holiday timing of the layoffs has not been lost on the protesting O'Hare workers.
"It’s just not right, like 10 days before Christmas, you give somebody a letter saying that they’re going to be laid off," janitor Jermaine Samples said Tuesday, according to CBS Chicago. "It’s just not right."
"They're taking my job away from me and giving it to somebody else," Mildred Rueda, a janitor of seven years at the airport, told WBEZ. "And I think it's unfair."
A coalition of four aldermen -- Scott Waguespack (32nd), Roderick Sawyer (6th), Nick Sposato (36th) and Rick Muñoz (22nd) -- are also standing up against the new O'Hare contract in their call for the passage of a new responsible bidders ordinance. The ordinance has already won 31 co-sponsors, according to WGN, and would require companies winning city contracts to offer their employees good salaries and benefits.