Contract workers at O’Hare and Midway airports will get a raise

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Thousands of contract workers at O’Hare and Midway airports will see their hourly wages rise to $17 on July 1, $2 more than Chicago’s $15 minimum wage. And it will rise to $18 a year later, and increase by the consumer price index every year thereafter.

The City Council’s Workforce Development Committee did just that, Monday, by approving an ordinance that significantly strengthens the “Service Provider License Agreements” approved by City Council in 2017.

About 6,500 employees – from caterers, de-icers and baggage handlers to wheelchair attendants, airfield and cargo workers – will benefit from the order championed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) and SEIU Local 1.

The 70 city-licensed airport service providers — 56 at O’Hare, 14 at Midway — would additionally be required to submit a memorandum to the Department of Aviation within 60 days of renewing their licenses outlining what they are doing. their companies to recruit employees. poor neighborhoods in Chicago.

“This will ensure that these good airport careers with living wages go to people in the city and, in particular, people in our socio-economically disadvantaged areas,” said Amber Ritter, commercial director of the Ministry of Aviation.

Genie Kastrup, executive vice president of SEIU Local 1, said it’s high time that “some of the billions” of federal and municipal dollars lavished on the airline industry during the pandemic “make their way into the the pockets of the workers, as expected.”

Michael Ortiz, an 18-year veteran passenger service assistant at Midway, would be one such beneficiary.

Many of his colleagues have been laid off during the pandemic. Those lucky enough to survive were forced to work longer hours for the same pay, doing jobs well beyond their original responsibilities.

“By increasing the minimum wage scale for all airport workers, we will be able to feed our families, pay rent and attract new workers to help solve the labor shortage we are seeing at the airport. airport. It will benefit us all,” Ortiz said.

Brian Grove, another airport contract worker, was forced to choose between his family’s health and a paycheck that put food on their table.

“We had to survive. So I showed up at the airport every day, worked longer than usual, worried about catching COVID-19 and bringing it home for my children, including my newborn baby” , Grove said.

“The new salary scale will help my family and many others immensely. I could pay the rent, the bills and start saving for the future of my four daughters. … It could change our lives.

Sean Williams, vice president of government and local affairs for Airlines for America, urged aldermen not to rack up additional costs on an airline industry “still struggling to recover” from a pandemic that has all but halted airline travel. business and abroad.

Williams noted that Chicago is already “one of the most expensive hub airports in the country,” with a cost per boarding passenger that is higher in every other major US city except New York.

“It matters to us because the major hubs are seeing traffic return at a faster rate than at O’Hare and Midway. And it will continue to put O’Hare and Midway at a serious cost disadvantage as we struggle to recover from this pandemic,” Williams said, denouncing the order as “wage discrimination.”

In 2017, then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel avoided a Council confrontation over a living wage ordinance at airports by passing a plan to tie the licenses of contractors at O’Hare and Midway airports to a ” labor peace agreement” which allowed thousands of workers to join trade unions.

Baggage handlers, cabin cleaners, aircraft maintainers and security guards were free to organize without interference. Contractors were prohibited from preventing such workers from “engaging in strikes, pickets, work stoppages, boycotts or other economic interference”.

The order further required these airline contractors and subcontractors to pay employees at least $13.45 per hour beginning July 1, 2018. Annual increases thereafter were tied to the cost of living. Employees whose wages include tips had to be paid $1 an hour more than the minimum wage that applies to employees receiving tips.

Aldus. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) called the salary increases approved on Monday a natural consequence of this revolutionary order.

“When we as a city council implemented the O’Hare Living Wage Ordinance in 2017 after many years of SEIU Local 1 and airport workers fighting together to win this ordinance, our The intention was always to ensure that the O’Hare minimum wage was a living wage above the living wage set for Chicago,” he said.

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