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O'Hare Workers Set Strike Date After Thanksgiving Weekend

By Stephen Gossett in News on Nov 21, 2016 5:23PM

O'Hare International Airport's walkway (photo via Joe Goldberg on Flickr)

Avoiding what could have prompted an absolutely nightmarish Thanksgiving travel weekend, hundreds of O’Hare workers have announced a strike for after the holiday weekend. The strike is set for Tuesday, Nov. 29, SEIU Local 1 announced on Monday morning.

Striking workers include include security guards, baggage handlers, cabin cleaners, janitors and wheelchair attendants, among other roles. They are seeking a $15 hourly wage and also hope to unionize. Most employees currently work on a subcontracting basis. Workers also claim that O’Hare operates with “inadequate safety and health standards” in regards to its employees.

Workers were joined last Thursday by city officials—including several prominent aldermen, such as Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) and George Cardenas (12th)—to announce their intentions to strike. No date was set at that news conference, but representatives said the strike could happen “in the coming days” and possibly “during busy holiday season.”

Five hundred-plus workers voted to authorize the strike, according to SEIU Local 1. “We hope the public continues to support O’Hare Airport workers as we fight for $15 and union rights, so we can afford to raise our own families and celebrate the upcoming holiday season," O’Hare baggage handler Raquel Brito said in a statement.

“For a year now, O'Hare Airport workers have been standing up and telling their stories, fighting for a living wage, better benefits, and higher standards at the airport,” SEIU Local 1 President Tom Balanoff said in a statement last week. “Now, they’re ready to do whatever it takes to stand up for themselves against the retaliation they’ve faced.”

Of course, plenty of Thanksgiving travelers will still be flying next Tuesday, so there some residual delays may be in the cards. Still, the Chicago Department of Aviation said last week it does not expect service disruption. So this may by the best case scenario: workers were able to leverage a holiday threat to draw attention to their (worthy) demands, but we don't have to sweat a potential travel crisis and suffer flashbacks of this.