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Photograph: CC/Flickr/Aine D

O'Hare airport workers are planning to strike next week

Written by
Jonathan Samples

Workers at O’Hare International Airport were joined on Monday by representatives from Service Employees International Union Local 1 to announce plans to walk off the job the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. More than 500 workers voted in favor of a work stoppage on November 29, in an effort to fight for union rights and increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

O'Hare worker Raquel Brito spoke on behalf of hundreds of baggage handlers, wheelchair attendants, custodial staff, cabin cleaners and floor cleaners, who voted to wait until after the busy Thanksgiving travel weekend to strike.

“O’Hare workers often can’t afford a proper Thanksgiving dinner and know what it’s like to miss Thanksgiving with our families,” she said during the Monday morning press conference. “However, we respect families traveling to be together, and that is why we are holding off our strike until after the Thanksgiving holiday.”

Many of the workers hold positions with United Airlines and American Airlines that are subcontracted through Prospect Airport Services, AirScrub Inc. and Air Serv, according to SEIU spokeswoman Izabela Miltko-Ivkovich. She said many of these employees make poverty-level wages, adding that they have been working for more than a year to resolve a number of other workplace issues. Although not currently union members, the workers have chosen SEIU to help represent them.

“These workers have been building their case for over a year now, and their issues have not been resolved,” Miltko-Ivkovich said. “They are willing to do whatever it takes to make a better future for themselves.”

The SEIU official noted that it was never workers’ intentions to disrupt travel, but said a work stoppage is necessary to show people what working conditions are like at one of the world's busiest airports.

“O’Hare is a major hub and anything that happens here does have a ripple nationally,” Miltko-Ivkovich said. “With hundreds of workers walking off the job… there will be some effects on travel."

If you were planning a post-Thanksgiving vacation, you might want to reschedule it, unless you enjoy waiting in line at the airport for hours on end.

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