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Chicago: Proposed City Law Would Protect Airport Restaurant Worker Jobs, Wages
Crain's
John Pletz

February 8, 2011
View the Original Article


An ordinance could be headed to the City Council that would make it more expensive for companies to run restaurants at the city's airports.

UniteHere, a union representing 1,100 workers at O’Hare International Airport and 40 workers at Midway Airport, wants job protection and higher wages guaranteed for members before the city awards new contracts later this year to companies that will operate restaurants at the airports.

The proposed ordinance, expected to be introduced at Wednesday’s City Council meeting, would make airport restaurant workers subject to the city’s “living wage” provisions, boosting pay to $11.03 an hour. Most make less than that now. Minimum wage is $8.25.

It also would require concession operators to give existing workers a 90-day trial period. Another provision would require concession-management companies to have “labor peace” agreements in place to prevent strikes at the airports that could disrupt business and revenue to the city.

A spokeswoman for the city Department of Aviation declined to comment.

The ordinance is set to be introduced Wednesday by Alderman Ricardo Munoz (22nd).

"(The concessionaires) are making money. Why can’t they share it with employees?" Mr. Munoz said. "The employees should be making a living wage. . . .These are five-, six-, eight-year agreements. Whenever you have agreements that don't protect workers, that's scary."

Also supporting the legislation are Aldermen Joe Moore (49th), Scott Waguespack (32nd) and Proco "Joe" Moreno (1st).

UniteHere, which represents airport workers around the country, is targeting Chicago because it’s the latest in a series of big airports that have restaurant and concession contracts up for renewal. The union has succeeded in getting airports in New York, San Diego and Phoenix to require concession operators to make job guarantees under so-called labor peace provisions, but such agreements are difficult to enforce.

Unions fear that management companies will cut wages or jobs. “There’s always a number of things that (are) uncertain when contracts expire — workers jobs and the stability of the entire program,” a union spokesman said.