CHICAGO (WLS) --Operations workers at O'Hare International Airport went on strike late Wednesday night.
The workers include baggage handlers, aircraft cabin cleaners and non-TSA security officers, as well as wheelchair attendants and custodians who work in the terminals. All are non-union workers employed by contractors hired by the city and the airlines.
"Airports are economic engines for cities. There's no doubt," said Tom Balanoff, president, SEIU Local 1. "We know that the airlines are profitable, very profitable actually. And that needs to be shared."
Starting at 10 p.m. Wednesday, workers will begin walking off the job for 24 hours and plan to stage a rally Thursday morning, similar to one held last November. O'Hare is one of nine airports coast-to-coast where the 24-hour strike is occuring.
The workers are demanding benefits and more money. Wages currently range from less than $13/hour for some tarmac workers to less than $7/hour for wheelchair attendants.
"They're tipped workers. I think they make $6.50 an hour and can't solicit tips," Balanoff said.
The workers also want better security training, especially in the wake of the Brussels airport attacks.
O'Hare officials promise there will be no disruption in operations, though these workers do help keep the airport running smoothly.
In a statement, The Chicago Department of Aviation said it "does not anticipate any impact to airport operations because of the proposed job action. We will continue to ensure that Chicago's airports are safe and secure for our passengers and employees, while working to enhance the customer experience."
The workers participating in the O'Hare walk-out are employed by three contractors: Universal Security, Prospect Airport Services, and Scrub, Inc. Messages left for those companies were not returned.