CHICAGO (CBS) — Several alderman have joined union airport workers in an effort to create an elected airport authority, and wrestle control of O’Hare and Midway airports away from Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Supporters of the push for an elected airport board is that every other major airport in the U.S. is run by either an elected authority, or a board one appointed by both the local mayor and the governor. They said Chicago is the only city to have its airports run directly out of City Hall.
“Throughout the United States and internationally, there are airport authorities, there are airport boards that work together with the constituencies of each of those cities and countries to make sure that it is the taxpayers, the citizens, the people that use those airports that are put first,” Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) said.
The alderman said an elected airport authority could bring a lot of benefits to travelers, airlines, and people living near the airports.
Security guards at Chicago’s downtown buildings have approved and ratified a contract with the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA).
The deal secures a 9 percent wage increase over the life of the contract, boosts pensions and keeps a 100 percent employer-paid health insurane plan in place.
“When contractors in Chicago do the right thing by creating good jobs and investing in families, our neighborhoods benefit,” said Tom Balanoff, SEIU Local 1 president. “This monumental contract will help boost the communities that need it the most. Our city, our children and the future of Chicago are better because of this agreement.”
Most of the 1,700 security guards covered under the contract will also see their hourly wage hit at least $15. According to SEIU, which represents the security guards, the deal will bring $46 million into some of the city’s most economically-depressed communities, where a majority of the workers live.
Nearly 100 baggage handlers, custodians, cabin cleaners, security officers and wheelchair attendants walked off the job at O’Hare, joining their peers at eight other airports across the country participating in 24-hour strikes, said Izabela Miltko, spokesperson for the Service Employees International Union Local 1.
The strikes were originally planned for March 22, the day of the terrorist attacks on an airport and train station in Brussels. They were postponed out of respect for the victims, Miltko said.
Security officers represented by SEIU* Local 1 rallied at the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago Tuesday afternoon, kicking off their campaign for better wages and benefits in upcoming contract negotiations.
Some 2,500 security officers who oversee downtown Chicago buildings such as the Willis Tower, the John Hancock Center and the Chicago Board of Trade will see their union contract expire April 21. Bargaining with the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) is set begin next Tuesday, and the officers are calling for a minimum wage of $15.
The starting wage for SEIU-represented security officers is $10.50 an hour, and most make an hourly wage less than $15, according to union officials.
“We want to get all of our members over $15 before this contract’s up,” said SEIU Local 1 President Tom Balanoff, adding that security officers also want their insurance and pensions protected.
Teresa Sanchez, 51, is a security officer at 161 N. Clark St., a stone’s throw away from the Thompson Center.
A security officer for 18 years, Sanchez’s wages are on the higher end of the pay scale. She earns $21.55 an hour.
“We want to get everybody at the same pay level,” she said. “And we want to make sure that security gets the respect that we deserve.”
Balanoff spoke to the important role security officers play when it comes to public safety.
“These workers do a very crucial job, and oftentimes we don’t really think much about it,” Balanoff said. “We all understand this city. We all understand how violent it is. We all understand how much more violent our world has become, and security officers are really the frontline workers, oftentimes, in terrorist situations or fires or other problems. They play a crucial role. A lot of times people don’t understand the crucial role they play until there’s a crisis.”
Chicago Alds. Roderick Sawyer (6th), Ricardo Munoz (22nd) and Scott Waguespack (32nd) rallied with the workers, who held signs reading, “Good Jobs Strengthen Our Economy.” The aldermen are members of the Progressive Reform Caucus, which has advocated for a $15 minimum wage in the city and other pro-worker measures.
“We understand how difficult it is to do your job,” Sawyer told the security officers. “You are, as stated earlier, the first responders. You’re the ones that put your lives on the line everyday to secure us as we’re traversing through these buildings downtown, and all throughout the city of Chicago, and we respect you and support you in your efforts to have a living wage, adequate benefits, a decent retirement. … We need to let these owners and these multimillionaire and billionaire individuals know that they need to pay you a living wage, a fair wage, and institute a fair contact for all here today.”
Waguespack added, “We’re gonna send a message to BOMA: As long as you’re here, we want to see equal pay. We want to see good pay. We want to see fair wages to the people who are the backbone of this city.”
There’s a second one-day strike this week that differs from the one you already know about in several key ways, including that this one might actually accomplish something.
The workers who were scheduled to walk off their jobs at O’Hare Airport late Wednesday and continue through Thursday aren’t expected to cause nearly as much disruption as the teachers shutting down Chicago Public Schools on Friday.
In fact, there’s a question of whether even airport-goers will notice the strike if they don’t happen across the demonstration planned for 8 a.m. between O’Hare Terminals 2 and 3.
But for the hundreds of low-wage security officers, baggage handlers, cabin cleaners, janitors and passenger attendants expected to participate in the O’Hare job action, the effort has the potential to be a life-changer.
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