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Chicago Airport Workers Seek Living Wage
Talking Union
Jack Metzgar

July 12, 2010
View the Original Article

Some 2,500 people work at the retail shops and food outlets at O’Hare and Midway airports, and most of them do not make a living wage by the standard of the Chicago Jobs and Living Wage Ordinance ($11.03 an hour). Over the last two months these workers have been mobilizing to try and convince the city’s Department of Aviation (DOA) to change that situation as it redoes most of its lease agreements with the companies who profit from passengers’ needs as they wait for airplanes.

Led by UniteHere Local 1, the workers have petitioned DOA Commissioner Rosemarie Adolino to meet with them to discuss their proposal for making “living wages, job stability, and labor peace” part of the requirements companies at the airports must meet if they are to do business there. Even though several aldermen who sit on the city’s Aviation Committee support the proposal, Adolino has refused to meet with the workers about their ideas for improving both work lives and customer service at the airports.

On July 1 a delegation of 30 workers, along with community and religious supporters, filled the lobby at Adolino’s office near the airport to see if anybody would talk with them. Deputy Commissioner Michael Boland eventually appeared to explain that there was nothing he could do because the Commissioner was out. As he was pressed by the workers, however, he agreed to arrange a meeting where DOA officials would finally listen to what airport workers propose.

What the workers are asking for are a set of modest standards already enforced at many airports, including those in Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Cleveland, Providence, and Miami. These standards would actually benefit the city and its airports in numerous ways that Commissioner Adolino might recognize if she just listens to what the workers have to say.

This piece originally appeared on the Chicago DSA website.