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Former Chicago JLL Tenant Sues Company Over Union Hiring Practices


A former JLL tenant in the Loop has filed suit in U.S. District Court in Chicago against the company, demanding that JLL pay back current and former tenants for forcing them to use union labor in renovating space or moving in or out of JLL-owned buildings. The plaintiffs characterize the practice as an "illegal conspiracy" to generate kickbacks for union contractors.

The plaintiff is Wacker Drive Executive Suites LLC, which occupied space at 125 South Wacker Drive from 2005 to 2017. Ivanhoé Cambridge acquired the building last year for $145M.

The suit alleges that JLL and local unions actively prevent tenants at JLL-managed buildings from employing nonunion workers, which would violate the National Labor Relations Act, the complaint said.

The unions themselves — the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 399, AFL-CIO; Service Employees International Union Local 1; and Teamsters Local 705 — aren't named as defendants. Only JLL is named as a defendant. 

According to the lawsuit, JLL has allowed the three union locals to “restrict access to its buildings by any nonunion contractors” since at least 2014, Cook County Record reports.

The suit is a challenge to a long-standing practice in Chicago, namely that office landlords and managers often follow unwritten rules stipulating that nonunion labor can't perform work at their properties, Crain's Chicago Business reports. If landlords do not do so, the fear is that union workers will walk off the job or picket their buildings to shame them.

The plaintiff said that mandatory union hiring requires tenants to pay a premium of 20% or more compared to the cost of hiring nonunion labor, and it is asking the judge to issue an injunction forbidding the practice from continuing. Wacker Drive Executive Suites is asking for triple its alleged damages.

The complaint also asks the judge to expand the action to include other current and past JLL tenants, which could potentially number in the thousands.

JLL did not respond to Bisnow's request for comment by press time.

CORRECTION, AUG. 17, 11:55 P.M. ET: A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed ownership of 125 South Wacker Drive. JLL manages the property, but does not own it. The story has been updated.