Thursday, 23 July 2015

Minimum Wage For Chicago Window Washers

Carlos Perez, center, a lead organizer for Service Employees International Union Local 1, leads chants with window washers and their supporters during a rally for better wages June 29, 2015, in Chicago. Window washers "overwhelmingly" ratified a three-year labor contract July 22, 2015, that includes a pay raise.
Window washers ratify 3-year agreement: Window washers "overwhelmingly" ratified a three-year labor contract that would raise wages by up to 16 percent over the life of the agreement, the union said Wednesday. "It's a good step but it's not the end," said Tom Balanoff, president of the Service Employees International Union Local 1.

Balanoff said the agreement, which covers 235 window washers, was reached last week and averted a strike. The union negotiated with Corporate Cleaning Services and seven other companies that bargained together in a coalition.

The workers, who now make from $11.15 to $17.65 per hour, will earn as much as $20.50 by the end of the contract, Balanoff said. The contract also calls for employers to pay 60 percent of health care insurance premiums, rather than a set amount, meaning companies will share cost increases with workers.

Despite those wins, a point system workers sought to end was expanded and could be used by all eight companies. Under the system, a worker gets a set amount of points, or hours, to clean a building's windows. If the window washers finish the work early, the company pays them commission. But if they work beyond the time allowed, they don't get any additional pay. Workers felt the system forced them to rush and take shortcuts, often at the expense of safety.

Window washer Cruz Guzman, 24, said the expansion of the system is disappointing, but the new contract contains language that keeps companies from lowering points and protects workers who chose to work on an hourly rate, rather than the point system. It also establishes seniority rights to protect older workers. Guzman said he sees the contract as a foundation. "We have a lot more to work on," he said.

Neal S. Zucker, chief executive of Corporate Cleaning Services, said in a statement that he believes the agreement is fair. "As Chicago's largest, all-union window-washing company, Corporate Cleaning Services is proud to have led negotiations on behalf of not only our employees, but for all window washers in Chicago," Zucker said.

More than 200 Chicago area window washers working both for Corporate Cleaning Services and for a Coalition of other major window washing contractors (“Coalition”) ratified a history making agreement on July 19.  The contract includes significant gains in pay, safety improvements, and protection of health care benefits. The window washers, represented by Service Employees International Union Local 1, and both Corporate Cleaning Services and the Coalition reached a unified agreement after contentious negotiations. Negotiations with Corporate Cleaning Services concluded ahead of the Coalition with the major employer leading the way and doing the right thing for Chicago’s working families. “We’re pleased we concluded bargaining with Corporate Cleaning Services as well as the Coalition,” said SEIU Local 1 President Tom Balanoff.  “We are glad that Corporate Cleaning Service led the way for the other contractors by stepping up, giving significant raises to their employees and most importantly doing the right thing for Chicago’s working families.  

Our unified agreement with Corporate Cleaning Services and the Coalition will allow the window washers to provide a better future for their families and help raise America with good jobs.” Chicago’s window washers step over the edge of skyscrapers like the Trump Tower, Willis Tower, and the Hancock building and risk their lives to help billion dollar corporations, yet struggle to make ends meet for their families. Low wages stunt the growth of our economy: families can’t afford basic necessities, let alone go to the doctor or save for their children’s education. Window washing is a family industry in Chicago; generations of workers have been providing our city with an essential service. Window washers will continue to fight for a better future not only for their families, but for the entire middle class.

City of Chicago Minimum Wage - Minimum Wage Ordinance: On December 2nd, 2014, the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance that will raise the minimum wage for Chicago workers to $13 per hour by 2019. This measure, sponsored by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Alderman Will Burns, Alderman Pat O’Connor, and 31 other aldermen, will increase the earnings for approximately 410,000 Chicago workers, inject $860 million into the local economy, and lift 70,000 workers out of poverty.

In 2015, the City will begin phasing in its new minimum wage, as provided by the ordinance. This phase-in will help simplify the early years of implementation for businesses and employers. The City's ordinance raises the hourly minimum wage to $10 in 2015, $10.50 in 2016, $11 in 2017, $12 in 2018, and $13 in 2019, indexed annually to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) after 2019.

On September 2, 2014, Mayor Emanuel signed an Executive Order requiring all City of Chicago contractors and subcontractors pay their employees a minimum of $13 per hour for work performed under a City contract. On September 30, 2014, the Mayor requested that all City of Chicago sister agencies follow suit.

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