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Chicago Janitors May Soon Walk Off The Job

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The clock is ticking for janitors, who are ready to walk off the job next week if they don't reach a new deal with building owners.

As WBBM Newsradio's Mike Krauser reports, the 14,000 janitors could walk off the job next Monday, when their contract is up. They clean office buildings in the city and suburbs, and the Chicago Public Schools, making on average about $31,000 a year in the city, and $24,000 in the suburbs.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio's Mike Krauser reports


Some of the buildings and offices that would be affected by a strike include Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, General Electric, CME Group, Boeing, AT&T, Kraft, United and Tishman Speyer.

Wages and health insurance are the major issues, and the Service Employees International Union Local 1 says the two sides are far apart, but making progress, regional chief Tom Balanoff tells Crain's Chicago Business.

Building Owners and Managers Association executive director Mike Cornicelli tells Crain's his group is "confident" that an agreement will be reached to avert a strike.

The janitors voted to authorize the strike over the weekend. They also rallied at Teamster City at Ashland Avenue and Jackson Boulevard on Saturday.

SEIU cites the Economic Policy Institute's calculation that the cost of living for a family of four in the Chicago area is $51,319 a year – $20,000 more than the average janitor makes.

The contract covers:

--4,000 janitors in downtown commercial office buildings
--3,000 in suburban commercial office buildings
--2,700 in public schools and City of Chicago facilities
--3,500 in malls, universities and other buildings.

Bargaining is set to resume Friday.

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