Opinion: Airport workers deserve a better deal

An American Airlines plane prepares to land from the east beyond a street light at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago Thursday, July 16, 2015. | Tim Boyle/For Sun-Times Media

An American Airlines plane prepares to land from the east beyond a street light at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago Thursday, July 16, 2015. | Tim Boyle/For Sun-Times Media

The people who clean the airplanes we fly, scrub the airport restrooms we use, and do the heavy lifting to get us from place to place can be almost invisible. You might not meet them, but you’ll notice if their jobs are not done. They are the janitors, baggage handlers, cabin cleaners and wheelchair attendants — and the lowest-paid workers at the 2nd busiest airport in the United States

Thousands of people work in low-paying, manual jobs at O’Hare Airport. These used to be good jobs with good wages, the workers directly employed by American or United Airlines. But now, thanks to subcontracting by the airlines, few of these jobs offer a true livable wage or affordable health benefits.

Passenger and aviation services at O’Hare are provided by companies that contract with the airlines or the City of Chicago Department of Aviation. The workers who take these jobs often are parents who support full households. In fact, the median age is 40 years old; these are not young people looking for their first part-time job.

We have heard stories of the workers being cheated by employers, denied wages they have rightfully earned and fired for attending union meetings. The legal claims they have filed are piling up, but often go ignored by our own city government. Workers have also filed safety violations with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, with no response.

Read the full piece by Chicago Alderman Roderick T. Sawyer and Alderman Sue Sadlowski Garza over at the Chicago Sun-Times.

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