Chicago Airport Workers Celebrate Ratification of Historic First Union Contracts with a Path to $15 and Better Benefits

CHICAGO – SEIU Local 1 Chicago airport workers were joined by Alds. Roderick Sawyer (6th), Scott Waguespack (32nd) and Gilbert Villegas (36th) at City Hall on Wednesday morning to celebrate a historic victory in their yearslong fight for $15 and union rights at Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway Airports: ratification of their first-ever union contracts with airport contractors Prospect Airport Services and Scrub, Inc.

The respective three-year contracts with Prospect and Scrub cover a total of 2,200 contracted Chicago airport workers, including wheelchair attendants, cabin cleaners, baggage handlers, security officers, cargo agents and others.

The union contracts with Prospect and Scrub include a path to at least $15 and better benefits, including more affordable healthcare, discipline and seniority protections, a grievance procedure, overtime, paid holidays and vacation days and other benefits.

“This is the power of working people coming together for the good, union jobs our families and communities need to thrive,” said Oliwia Pac, a Prospect wheelchair attendant and security agent at O’Hare, who has been a longtime leader in the fight for union rights at the airport. “We’re improving the lives of thousands of working people at our airports, and we’re making our airports, communities and our entire city stronger.”

The historic contract ratifications come after passage of the September 2017 SEIU Local 1-backed airport ordinance, co-sponsored by Alds. Sawyer, Waguespack and Villegas, among others, that raised the base wage at Chicago’s airports to $13.80 and made it easier for airport workers to organize their union. Prospect and Scrub workers officially won their union with SEIU Local 1 in late 2018.

With two major contracts under their belts, Chicago airport workers, who have been fighting to raise standards at our airports for working people and passengers alike for more than four years, will now turn their fight for $15 and a union to other segments of contracted workers, including the cabin cleaners, customer service agents, baggage handlers, ramp agents and warehouse agents employed by Total Airport Services, Inc.

“We won’t rest until all working people at O’Hare and Midway Airports have the good jobs their families need to thrive,” said Local 1 President Tom Balanoff. “Other contracted airport workers are ready to take the baton from Prospect and Scrub workers and launch their own fight for their union. Together, we will fight to ensure Chicago’s airports continue to be strong economic engines for our city.”

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