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Airport Workers At O'Hare Are In The Middle Of A 1-Day Strike

By aaroncynic in News on Mar 31, 2016 6:51PM

Alderman Anthony Napolitano speaks at a press conference with striking workers outside of O'Hare Airport (photo via SEIU Local 1).
Hundreds of workers at O’Hare airport went on strike Thursday to demand higher wages and to protest what they say are unfair labor pratices.

Baggage handlers, janitors, cabin cleaners, security officers and wheelchair attendants walked off the job early Thursday morning as part of a coordinated 24-hour strike with workers at nine other airports across the country. They’re demanding a raise in their wages to $15 an hour, as well as better training, health benefits, improved safety standards, and better security in the wake of the terrorist attack in Brussels.

“Airport workers do their best to keep airports safe and secure for the millions of passengers who pass through every day,” read a statement from SEIU Local 1, the labor organization that’s been trying to organize the workers, who are currently subcontractors.

“Horrific attacks like the one that took place at the Brussels airport highlight the sensitive nature of all work at the airports. As workers at highly sensitive airports around the country, airport workers are well aware of the dangers and risks that unfortunately continue to be a threat. The workers are banding together to create a safer airport and better working conditions for all workers at O’ Hare.”

The workers were joined by Ald. Carlos Ramirez- Rosa and Ald. Anthony Napolitano, who both represent wards with large populations of airport workers.

Julio Godoy, a Guatemalan immigrant who has worked at O’Hare for two years as a cabin cleaner earning $10 an hour, told the Tribune he came to America seeking a better life and is trying to improve conditions here for him and fellow workers. “"I ended up in this company, and the thing is with companies like this they are constantly keeping workers down,” said Godoy. “I don't think that's OK, so I am working to change that."

Godoy also described some of the conditions at his workplace he wants to see improved:

“As cabin cleaners we have to deal with human blood, vomit and cleaning toilets. We do this with latex gloves only and I think we need better training to deal with this so that we're better protected.”

A spokesperson from the Chicago Department of Aviation said in a statement that the strike would have minimal impact on travel.

“The Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) does not anticipate any impact to airport operations because of the proposed job action. We will continue to ensure that Chicago’s airports are safe and secure for our passengers and employees, while working to enhance the customer experience.”