Aldermen move to protect airport concession employees

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SHARE Aldermen move to protect airport concession employees

Two influential aldermen are moving to give O’Hare and Midway Airport employees some measure of protection before the city awards lucrative concession contracts.

Ald. Danny Solis (25th),chairman of the City Council’s Zoning Committee, and Special Events Committee Chairman Walter Burnett (27th), want to require airport concessionaires to either abide by terms of union contracts already negotiated or give workers the power to bargain collectively.

HMS Host, which controls 60 percent of the food and beverage concessions at O’Hare, is operating on a month-to-month contract.

So are most of the concessionaires at Midway Airport, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel grounded his privatization plan after one of only two remaining bidders left the runway.

The concession logjam is expected to break after the Feb. 24 mayoral election and after Emanuel chooses a replacement for retiring Aviation Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino.

But, before the gravy train starts rolling, Solis wants to make certain that airport employees don’t get the shaft.

“If any new company comes in and takes over a business — whether it’s a restaurant or a newsstand — they would have to abide by previous agreements or the workers would have the right to organize,” Solis saidThursdayof the ordinance he introduced at this week’s City Council meeting.

“The idea is not to have the workers worry that benefits they negotiated and fought for would be gone if somebody else takes over. It’s important that the workers have these assurances. It gives them some protection. They shouldn’t fear losing their benefits if there’s a new owner.”

Solis said the ordinance is patterned after similar guarantees in place at airports in Los Angeles, New York and Washington D.C.

He argued that the protections are particularly important at a time when Mayor Rahm Emanuel has promised to increase Chicago’s minimum wage to $13-an-hour by 2018.

“It sets the right tone. I don’t expect the mayor to oppose it,” he said.

Two years ago, the Emanuel administration chose United Maintenance Co., Inc. to provide custodial services at O’Hare for the next five years, ignoring a powerful union leader’s claim that the company intended to dump 300 union custodians and replace them with lower-paid, non-union janitors.

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

The company managed jointly by Simon and Daddano was based in the same South Loop building where United Maintenance has its offices, the records show.

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