Union Sues Navy Pier Over New Security Vendor

CHICAGO (CN) – Teamsters Local 727 sued the company that manages Chicago landmark Navy Pier and its new security contractor, claiming they have refused to accept its union members’ job applications.

The union filed a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court on Monday, alleging that Navy Pier Inc. wrongfully hired Allied Universal as its security provider and won’t accept union members’ applications for employment.

Navy Pier is a 3,300-foot-long pier on the shore of Lake Michigan that is home to more than 50 acres of parks, stores, restaurants and more. With more than 9 million visitors each year, it is one of Chicago’s top tourism attractions.

It was originally designed for shipping and recreation purposes but is now an entertainment and exposition center. The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority manages Navy Pier and leased it to Navy Pier Inc., or NPI, in 2011.

Members of Teamsters Local 727, through a security company called SMG, work at Navy Pier as security officers, supervisors, shift commanders and fire safety officers.

During collective-bargaining agreement negotiations, SMG informed the union that NPI was going to issue a request for proposal for security services at Navy Pier.

“The Union raised numerous objections to the [request for proposal, or RFP] and expressed its concerns over the continued representation of the Navy Pier employees, job security, wages and terms of conditions of employment for SMG employees at Navy Pier,” according to the complaint.

Attorneys from Franczek Radelet, representing both SMG and NPI, bargained with the union over terms and conditions but NPI eventually withdrew the request for proposal.  Upon withdrawal, the union agreed to enter into the contract with SMG.

“The Union and its members relied on the promise NPI would not subcontract the security work at Navy Pier and accepted the CBA once NPI withdrew the RFP,” according to the complaint.

However, just one month after the agreement was signed, NPI allegedly issued a revised request for proposal. Teamsters Local 727 claims NPI only withdrew the original request to induce it to enter into the CBA.

The revised request required the awarded bidder to “offer employment to full-time employees” and “negotiate in good faith with any union that seeks to represent its employees, for a labor neutrality and card check procedure agreement,” according to the complaint.

NPI announced May 2 that it selected defendant Allied Universal to provide security services at Navy Pier.

A letter was sent out to SMG union workers, which allegedly stated: “Please note that all full-time officers currently working at Navy Pier under the SMG security team will be extended an opportunity to join the Allied Universal Security team. In addition, all Navy Pier part-time officers will also be given the opportunity to apply for a position with Allied Universal.”

A week after the letter was sent, a Teamsters Local 727 representative tried to deliver employment applications but Allied refused to accept them, according to the lawsuit.

Teamsters Local 727 seeks an injunction requiring Allied to employ the full-time officers working at Navy Pier, negotiate in good faith over a card check and neutrality agreement, and refrain from subcontracting other security services.

The union also seeks $50,000 in damages for security and fire safety employees’ lost wages. It is represented by Jonathan Magna of Illinois Advocates LLC in Chicago.

“All officers who had been working at Navy Pier were extended an opportunity to apply for employment with the Allied Universal Security team,” Navy Pier spokesman Payal Patel said in a statement.

Allied spokesperson Angela Burrell said, “The company is working towards a smooth transition and startup of services and will continue to do so over the days and weeks to come. Because the transition and onboarding process for Allied Universal’s staffing of the Navy Pier account is still ongoing, any statement regarding the representation of those employees would be premature.”

Teamsters Local 727 also filed an unfair labor practice claim with the National Labor Relations Board against NPI last week. It says Allied has threatened to cut workers’ wages, eliminate pensions and reduce health care coverage.

John Coli Jr., president of Local 727, said in a statement that his union “will not back down” and “must fight for our members.”

“We are astonished at how mean-spirited NPI is toward the Pier’s dedicated public safety employees,” Coli said. “After all, people’s livelihoods are at stake here and NPI’s executives refuse to recognize that by hiring another security vendor in the hopes that it won’t honor the current collective bargaining agreement.”

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