O'Hare airport workers vote to strike ahead of Thanksgiving

FOX 32 NEWS - Just in time for the holiday travel season, workers at O’Hare Airport are threatening to go on strike.

And now, airline passengers are trying to get a handle on how their baggage will be handled if the employees who normally do that work walk off the job.

“It sucks for the people traveling to O'Hare, especially since she is such a big hub for travelers, so all I can say is that it's going to be brutal,” said Mike Patel, who just arrived home from Newark, New Jersey.

On Thursday, 500 workers, all who are employed by private contractors, voted to strike, according SEIU Local 1, which is trying to organize the employees.

In addition to baggage handlers, those employees include janitors and wheel chair attendants, as well as those who clean the cabins on the airplanes in-between flights. This is part of the Fight for $15 an hour movement.

“I am treated like dirt, cleaning airplanes, we are taken advantage of, we are not given the right equipment or treatment,” said cabin cleaner Keisha Rivera. 

Workers also claim they are subject to retaliation when they do complain. The timing of the strike threat is designed for maximum impact.

“They don't expect to shut the airport down. Oh, it will cause disruption, it will, but they don't expect to shut the airport down, that's not really what they're trying to do. What they're trying to do is to get the powers to hear their voice,” said Tom Balanoff, President, SEIU Local 1.

“I certainly don't like to hear the threat of strike, sometimes that has a negative connotation to it and I wish they could figure some of the stuff out without going that route,” said business traveler Dan Gowen.

Some people are now thinking of changing travel plans.

“Let me find an alternative, is Midway going on strike? Is the same situation happening there? If not, I'm going to fly out of there,” Patel said.

The Chicago Department of Aviation said it does not expect any travel disruptions during the holiday season. A spokeswoman for American Airlines said, “We are working closely with our vendors to ensure there is no disruption to our operation.”

A United Airlines spokeswoman said, “We are taking the necessary steps to ensure a safe and on-time operation for our customers.”