Chicago Airport Workers Cheer Passage Of City Ordinance For Union Rights, Higher Wages At O’Hare, Midway

Chicago Airport Workers Cheer Passage Of City Ordinance For Union Rights, Higher Wages At O’Hare, Midway

Measure marks huge step forward in Chicago airport workers’ fight for $15 and a union

CHICAGO – In a major win for Chicago airport workers, the City Council unanimously approved an ordinance Wednesday that will soon give nearly 8,000 O’Hare and Midway airport workers a raise to $13.45 an hour and the right to join a union.

The ordinance requires labor peace agreements between O’Hare and Midway ground handling operators and labor unions representing or seeking to represent their employees.

Passage of this important ordinance, backed by SEIU Local 1 and proposed in July by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and numerous aldermen, marks a major step forward in Chicago airport workers’ fight for $15 and union rights.

A diverse coalition of community and elected leaders, including Black Caucus Chair Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), Progressive Caucus Chair Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), Latino Caucus Chair Gilbert Villegas (36th), Ald. Susan Sadlowski-Garza (10th), Ald. Patrick Thompson (11th), Ald. Toni Foulkes (16th), Ald. George Cardenas (12th), Ald. Ricardo Muñoz (22nd), Ald. Michael Scott Jr. (24th) and Ald. John Arena (45th), stood with dozens of airport workers before today’s City Council meeting to rally behind the ordinance.

“Airport workers thank our City Council supporters for unanimously approving this ordinance,” said Oliwia Pac, who works for Prospect as a wheelchair attendant at O’Hare. “After two years of tireless organizing, protesting and striking, it feels great to be moving forward in our fight for $15 and a union.”

“The measure will help me and my coworkers build a better future for ourselves and our families,” Pac added. “In turn, our airports will see less worker turnover. That means better service and safety at our airports.”

“This ordinance is good public policy that will improve safety at our airports. It’s a win-win-win-win for airport workers, passengers, the city and the airlines,” said SEIU Local 1 President Tom Balanoff. “It’s going to start a process to make a better life for the workers here and make a safer, cleaner, more convenient airport for the passengers and help Chicago start to lift up all of our communities.”

“Labor peace is important for the value of the gates at our airports, making it important for those who operate, work in and travel through them,” said Ald. Roderick Sawyer. “This ordinance is so crucial for the workers, airlines, city and passengers.”

Most airport workers, nearly half of whom are aged 40 or older, make minimum wage or less, and many depend on public assistance to afford basic necessities, including food, rent and healthcare.

Since launching their campaign two years ago for $15 and a union, Chicago airport workers—who are seeking to join SEIU Local 1—have filed wage theft and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) violation complaints at the local and federal level and have gone on strike repeatedly over unfair labor practices.

Fifteen dollars and union rights for airport workers would not only boost our communities and economy, it would reduce turnover, increase quality and improve the customer experience at a time when the airlines need it most.


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. Last year, airport workers served an all-time high of 932 million passengers. By sticking together and speaking out, more than 110,000 airport workers across the country have won wage increases or other improvements, including healthcare, and paid sick leave. We have won wage increases in Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, Newark, Minneapolis, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Virginia, Fort Lauderdale and Miami. Nearly 22,000 airport workers have won a union with SEIU.

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