O'Hare workers walk off job demanding higher wages

Tuesday, November 29, 2016
O'Hare workers strike for higher wages
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Hundreds of baggage handlers, cabin cleaners, janitors and wheelchair attendants at O'Hare airport walked off the job on Tuesday.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Hundreds of workers at O'Hare International Airport walked off their jobs Tuesday, demanding higher wages and union benefits.

The one-day strike was part of a Fight for 15 campaign, which calls for a $15/hour living wage.

Non-unionized baggage handlers, janitors and wheelchair attendants -- who make about $10.80/hour -- hit the picket lines, joined by others hundreds of other union workers, fast-food employees, health care providers and even Uber drivers who also want $15/hour.

"My daughters needs a root canal right now. I cannot do a root canal on my daughters' mouth because I either have to pay rent or fix their mouth," said Kisha Rivera, a cabin cleaner.

The airport workers are not employed by the airlines, but are subcontractors who are being organized by Service Employees International Union Local 1, which says 500 of them agreed to the walkout - though only a handful attended Tuesday's rally.

"I count the ones that did. It's some representation is better than no representation. I'm representing myself and the workers," said Diana Petty, a janitorial worker.

Airport workers said they didn't want to strike the day before Thanksgiving during the busiest travel day. Why? Because they want public support. This Is Only Expected To Be A One Day Strike

Organizers said the strike was expected to cause delays and disruption, particularly for United and American Airlines. However, an American Airlines spokesperson said "operationally we've seen zero impact" due to the strike.


In Chicago, the morning started with McDonald's fast food workers striking, shutting down the intersection of Chicago and Damen.

"We have gotten so much out of this, and we cannot stop now. We cannot stop now we need to keep going because living paycheck to paycheck is ridiculous. It is not going to work," said Adrianna Alvarez, a McDonald's employee.

Uber drivers are also joining the fight. Drivers in two dozen cities, including Chicago, say they'll go as far as idling their cars to demand better pay.

"Uber is making a ton of money now, we know that they can afford to pay us more so we can keep driving and moving Chicago," said Durrell Imani, Uber driver.

The cause spread to health care as well. Protesters joined hospital workers for a march and rally outside Northwestern Memorial Hospital in the Streeterville neighborhood Tuesday morning.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.