Fast Food, Airport, And Health Care Workers Stage Nationwide Walkout

Image courtesy of Fight for $15

The threatened strike of low-paid workers at Chicago’s O’Hare airport didn’t happen at Thanksgiving time as originally proposed, but did occur today as part of a nationwide series of strikes. In some cities, protesters blocking public streets were arrested, but the predicted disruption of air travel at the country’s busiest airports didn’t happen.

According to the Chicago Tribune, O’Hare officials say that the protest isn’t having a noticeable effect on travelers. Employees who walked off the job today included janitors, baggage handlers, wheelchair attendants, and cabin cleaners, part of a protest backed by the Service Employees International Union that topped 1,000 people just at O’Hare, about 500 of them airport workers.

Organizers of the airport protest told media outlets that they expected to disrupt operations, but airport officials said that they did not expect disruptions for travelers. (If you flew through O’Hare today and observed anything, let us know.)

(Fight for $15)

(Fight for $15)

One passenger flying American told a Chicago Sun-Times reporter that the wait was a little longer than usual for a wheelchair attendant, but not enough to cause problems.

“I think attendants need more money,” the woman, who uses a wheelchair and flies about twice a year, told the newspaper. “I’m happy to have them strike for it.”

The minimum wage varies across the country and from city to city: it’s $10.50 per hour in Chicago, for example. Protesters who are part of the movement seek a $15 minimum wage and the opportunity to join a union.

Other workers who joined protests included fast food workers, home care workers, and drivers for ride-hailing apps, especially Uber. Fight for $15 says that protests took place in 340 municipalities across the country, with major gatherings at O’Hare, Boston’s Logan Airport, and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

One of the attendants at O’Hare, Oliwia Pac, wrote about the harder parts of her job for the Guardian. She is a college student who works mostly as a wheelchair attendant, and is also the person who accompanies unaccompanied minors between flights.

“I have stood out on jetways in -30F weather with only a thin flannel to keep me warm,” she wrote. “I have been told to push two wheelchairs at once. I have worked 17-hour shifts. I get cuts and bruises all the time. But every day I go home and do not know if I have earned enough to get by.”

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