Continuing MLK’s Fight for Justice, O’Hare Airport Workers Arrested Outside of United Airlines Headquarters

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, January 18, 2016

CONTACT: Izabela Miltko miltkoi@seiu1.org 708-655-9681

Nick Desideri desiderin@seiu1.org 630-779-5510

Continuing MLK’s Fight for Justice, O’Hare Airport Workers Arrested Outside of United Airlines Headquarters

O’Hare baggage carriers, security officers and passenger service workers honored Dr. King’s legacy by taking a stand for justice and equality at nation’s airports

(CHICAGO)— Building on the success of their unfair labor practice strike in November, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, security officers, wheelchair attendants, and other service workers at O’Hare joined with other airport workers in major cities, including Boston, New York City, Newark, Philadelphia, Miami, Washington, DC, Seattle, and Portland in a large-scale national civil disobedience. The workers protested the gross injustices and inequality that persist at airports across the country, and called for change in the hopeful and visionary spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I work at O’Hare Airport alongside my aunt and grandma, and we all make minimum wage. We’re sick of struggling to make ends meet. We’re tired of paying out-of-pocket for health care,” said O’Hare Baggage Handler Raquel Brito. “Airlines like United need to take responsibility and stand up for good wages at O’Hare so working people like me can build a future for our families.”

Like the striking Memphis, Tenn., sanitation workers who took action nearly fifty years ago, and with whom Dr. King stood at the end of his life, airport workers make egregiously low wages that keep working families trapped in a crushing cycle of poverty. Contracted airport workers and their allies were arrested as a testament to their commitment to do whatever it takes to win at least $15 and union rights for every airport worker. Despite helping to generate $8 billion dollars in profits for the aviation industry, contracted airport workers are still paid so little that they can’t make ends meet, forcing many of them to rely on public assistance for their basic needs in spite of working full-time jobs.

“As an organization committed to winning economic, racial, and social justice for all, SEIU Local 1 stands with airport workers as they fight for a living wage and union rights,” said SEIU Local 1 Secretary-Treasurer Laura Garza. “Dr. King fought on behalf of working people like those at O’Hare, and today we honor his legacy.”

Following the first-ever national strikes at seven of the country’s busiest hubs in November and a nationwide Thanksgiving fast, these brave men and women—baggage handlers, terminal cleaners, cabin cleaners, skycaps, wheelchair agents, customer service agents, terminal security officers and ramp workers— who keep our airports safe and secure for the traveling public celebrated Dr. King’s life by continuing his legacy of nonviolent civil disobedience in pursuit of justice and equality.

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Around the country, airport workers are coming together in Airport Workers United, a movement of workers and their allies, raising their voices to make our airports safe and secure for passengers, employees and our communities. Contracted airport workers from major airports serve 393 million passengers yearly. By sticking together, speaking out for change, and going on strike, these workers have won wage increases in Los Angeles, New York City, Newark, Minneapolis, Boston, Philadelphia, and Fort Lauderdale. Today, more than 45,000 airport workers nationwide have either received wages increases or other improvements, including health care, paid sick leave and worker retention policies.

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