The contracts, among the largest at O’Hare, also are among the first aviation deals awarded since the city updated its ordinance that guarantees airport workers make more than the city’s $15-an-hour minimum wage. The little-noticed ordinance, passed in January, requires that airport vendors pay employees at least $17 an hour this year and $18 starting next year. After that, pay increases annually at the rate of inflation.
The wage increase caught business off guard at a time when COVID still was weighing heavily on air travel, says Brad Tietz, vice president of government relations at the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. Demand for air travel has roared back since then. Given the tight labor market, actual wages at the airport already exceed the new minimums.
The ordinance also required that companies with airport contracts have labor peace agreements with unions. Another provision of the airport-wage ordinance, which first passed in 2017, requires companies doing business at the airport to use their “best efforts to recruit workers from the socio-economically disenfranchised areas of the city.”
ABM says it has an agreement with the Service Employees International Union, which likely will add more than 300 workers to its rolls. Including other contracts, labor leaders think the ordinance could double SEIU’s membership of about 1,500 at O’Hare.
“We have a longstanding relationship with SEIU,” said Sean Bromfield, president of ABM Aviation, which already provides cleaning services at O’Hare’s Terminal 5 and is one of several maintenance companies at Midway. ABM has offered jobs to employees working for United Maintenance. “This is not unfamiliar territory for us. We couldn’t be more excited.”
ABM says it exceeded the city’s requirement that the main vendor allocate at least 30% of value of the contract to minority- and women-owned businesses, reaching nearly 50%.
The janitorial-services contract ABM won was controversial and dragged out for years. It was put out for bid in 2018 and scrapped in 2019 after Lori Lightfoot was elected mayor. Another request for proposals was issued in July 2020 and the city was set to award the contract to ABM late last year. United Maintenance sued, alleging the company was improperly overlooked as the low bidder. The city issued a new RFP in January and awarded the contract last month.
That’s how a United Maintenance contract that was awarded in 2012 and supposed to last five years turned into a decade-long deal. United Maintenance was paid $99 million under the original contract and another $98 million under various extensions, according to city records. Rick Simon, who runs United Maintenance, declined to comment on the award of the new contract.