[Update 11/21: Contract workers at O’Hare have confirmed plans to strike on Tuesday, November 29, as part of nationwide action to protest for a $15 minimum wage for airport workers.]
Over 500 workers at airport expect to walk off job prior to Thanksgiving.
Janitors and other contract workers at Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) could be walking off the job in the next two weeks, creating an inconvenience for holiday flyers traveling through the air terminal. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that over 500 workers have voted to initiate a strike at the airport.
The vote came from over 2,000 non-union employees at the airport, working for service contractors who provide janitorial services and other support. Groups of employees have been working with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to organize since 2015, calling for paid overtime hours and a minimum wage of $15 per hour.
The proposed strike comes after the SEIU filed complaints with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration over alleged practices by three contractors at ORD. Speaking to Chicago NBC affiliate WMAQ, the union-filed complaint claims that the contractors are subject to several workplace hazards, including being pricked by hypodermic needles and cleaning up human excrement.
“I work in terminal 5 international, which airplanes come from all over, you know? I gotta make sure everything is sanitized,” an anonymous airline employee told WMAQ during a press conference. “There’s vomit all over the place, the give us latex gloves that really thin, so they rip easily, so we need to put double gloves on.”
The union says their goal is not to shut down the airport or stop operations, but instead to make flyers aware of the problems contract workers face. A spokesperson for the airport told the Sun-Times that they did not anticipate the proposed strike would create problems for flyers.
A spokesperson for SEIU did not announce to the Associated Press when the walk-out strike may take place, but instead said it would happen “in the coming days.” The strike is the fifth protest organized by SEIU in 2016 and matches a previous walk-out that took place on Nov. 19, 2015.