Non-union workers strike at Chicago's O'Hare airport

By Ed Adamczyk  |  Nov. 29, 2016 at 7:54 AM
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CHICAGO, Nov. 29 (UPI) -- Service personnel at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport will hold a strike and rally in support of a wage increase Tuesday, union officials said.

Non-unionized janitors, baggage handlers, cabin cleaners and wheelchair attendants are expected to participate in a "Day of Disruption" organized for 20 airports across the country by the Service Employees International Union, which is supporting the strikers. The Chicago Department of Aviation said it does not expect the work stoppage to affect flights.

Chicago's is the only airport where a strike and protest rally, scheduled for noon, are scheduled. The labor action at O'Hare is part of the national "Fight for $15" campaign, seeking to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Some involved in the Chicago strike currently earn $10.50 per hour, the minimum wage in Chicago.

The striking workers in Chicago are employed by subcontractors, including Prospect Airport Services, AirScrub Inc. and the City of Chicago, and say the protest also is intended to highlight what they regard as employers' retaliation efforts for organizing. The length of the walkout remains undetermined, SEIU spokesman Marc Goumbri said.

Air Service, a subcontractor employing about 300 non-union workers at O'Hare, filed a lawsuit, denied Monday in a Chicago federal court, arguing that workers abide by the Railway Labor Act, which requires mediation and other process to avoid strikes potentially disrupting travel. The SEIU said the workers, who are not directly employed by the airlines, are protected by the National Labor Relations Act.

American Airlines and United Airlines, which both use O'Hare as a hub, said they are prepared for any passenger inconvenience. In a statement, United Airlines said it is "taking the necessary steps to ensure a safe and on-time operation for our customers."

"We are working closely with our vendors to ensure there is no disruption to our operation," American Airlines said.

Worker rallies in Chicago are also scheduled Tuesday at a McDonald's restaurant and at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The date marks the fourth anniversary of the first "Fight for $15" strike, of McDonald's employees in New York City.

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