Issued September 29, 2015
With O’Hare workers joining the fight, campaign to raise standards for contracted out airport workers around the country now will reach airports handling 393 million passengers annually
CHICAGO- Hundreds of workers at O’Hare Airport, joined by community and faith leaders, rallied today to add their voices to the fight for 15 movement and bring attention to the poverty wages and other substandard conditions that underpaid passenger service workers, security officers and janitors are subjected to at O’Hare Airport.
While O’Hare Airport and the airline industry are making record profits and receive hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues and taxpayer-funded federal subsidies, the hard working men and women who make sacrifices everyday to keep them profitable are left behind.
"Working hard at O’Hare while making poverty wages doesn’t fly," said Passenger Service Worker Jackie Chacko. "I’m fighting for $15 and union rights because my family and I depend on it."
The rally today was the latest coordinated action by airport workers who are uniting in a nationwide campaign for respect and dignity at major origin and destination airports. Contracted out airport workers in Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis, Boston, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, Washington DC and Fort Lauderdale have joined the Fight for $15 and union rights so that airport jobs and services to the traveling public can improve. With workers at Chicago O’Hare Airport joining the movement to create better jobs at our nation’s airports, 393 million passengers annually will fly through airports serviced by contracted out workers who are part of the national campaign –Airports Workers United—to improve traveling conditions for passengers and workplace standards for workers.
Passenger service employees and security officers at O’Hare Airport are responsible for passenger safety, airport security, and customer satisfaction throughout the passenger’s entire travel experience at the airport, including helping to ensure a safe flight.
Despite O’Hare Airport being the third busiest airport in the U.S., and a hub for both United and American Airlines, security officers, janitors, and passenger service workers, whose hard work makes the airlines and the airport profitable, are paid poverty wages.
While all service workers at O’Hare suffer, tipped employees face additional burdens. This is due in part to the tipped minimum wage, which is much lower than the standard minimum wage ($5.45 vs. $10 in Chicago as of July 2015). If a tipped worker’s tips do not bring his or her hourly pay up to the level of the standard minimum wage, the employer is required to make up the difference. However, at O’ Hare tips are not always accurately reported, resulting in workers being paid less than minimum wage.
Airport workers are sticking together, taking action, and they are winning. Thanks to their determination and their shared purpose in the Fight for 15 and union rights movement, many of these workers are seeing significant raises and other workplace improvements for the first time.
In Seattle, 4,700 workers the Sea-Tac International Airport will see their hourly wages raised to $15.24 as a result of the state’s Supreme Court recent ruling that a $15 an hour worker-led ballot initiative applies to the airport workers as well. In Philadelphia, workers recently won a labor peace agreement and then stood with voters to pass a ballot initiative raising wages to $12 an hour. At Boston Logan Airport, employees won a $10 wage floor policy. In Portland, workers won retention policies to protect their jobs. In New York and New Jersey, airport staff won wage increases and also secured Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a paid holiday. In Minneapolis, in addition to winning groundbreaking paid sick leave workers also won wages increased to $10.
"I feel really great that the Fight For 15 has inspired other workers in other industries to stand up for $15 and union rights,” said Dora Peña who works at McDonald’s. “Chicago airport workers are suffering some of the same injustices as fast food workers. I'm glad they are standing up for their rights because together we will have a stronger chance of winning $15 in the city and across the country."
Airport workers across the country are coming together in Airport Workers United, a movement of workers and their allies, raising their voices for $15 and union rights to make our airports safe and secure for passengers, employees and our communities. Together, they have won a union voice for 15,000 airport workers and have already secured wage increases and other job improvements for more than 45,000 airport workers nationwide.
"Working hard at O’Hare while making poverty wages doesn’t fly. I’m fighting for $15 and union rights because my family and I depend on it." Jackie Chacko