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Living Wage Proposed for Airport Concession Workers
Chicago Tribune
John Byrne

February 9, 2011
View the Original Article

Airport concessions workers would be paid at least $11.03 an hour under a union-backed living wage proposal, which supporters acknowledge could raise the prices of food, drinks and other goods at O'Hare and Midway.

The city ordinance also would provide some job protection for 1,500 concession workers at O'Hare International Airport if new contractors take over the concessions.

Ald. Ricardo Munoz, 22nd, said it's unreasonable that some restaurants at the airports sell hamburgers and beers that cost more than an hour's wages for the workers who prepare them.

If the cost goes up for food and other items sold in the concourses, so be it, said Munoz, who is running for re-election Feb. 22.

If a new contractor takes over concessions, existing workers would be allowed to keep their jobs for at least 90 days, unless an employer had cause to fire them. Those who were laid off after 90 days would be put on a rehire list, with the first chance to get their jobs back.

Jeff Grays said he makes $8.50 an hour working for Hudson News at O'Hare. "If we get this living wage set in, I could take better care of my family, give them a reason to look up to me," Grays said.

In other City Council action:

•Owners of vacant buildings could be jailed for up to six months if their property violates city standards and someone suffers a severe injury or death as a result.

Ald. James Balcer, 11th, pushed through the ordinance after two firefighters died when a roof collapsed as they searched an abandoned laundry business while battling a fire.

•Aldermen ratified a five-year firefighter contract with average annual raises of 2 percent. The city is expected to borrow $94 million for back pay dating to 2007.