Privatization plans for Midway Airport could negatively affect both nearby residents as well as airport workers, according to Ald. Michael Zalewski (23rd).
The alderman told the Chicago Sun-Times he is concerned about allegations that one of the two contenders for the privatization contract has a history of "union busting and black-listing".
“A number of employees from Europe came to see me last week with these allegations — that one of the finalists is a notorious union-busting company,” Zalewski said.
“I told them I needed proof. I’m awaiting that documentation. But, if it’s true, that’s a huge problem,”
The two finalists still vying for the contract are Industry Funds Management of Australia and Manchester Airports Group, which is working together on the deal, and the combined forces of Austraila's Macquarie Group and Spain's Ferrovial, the latter of which is accused of union busting by Great Britain's largest union. The Macquarie Group also owns the 99-year contract for the Chicago Skyway.
Zalewski is also concerned that the privatization deal could mean more noise pollution for those who live near the airport, particularly for those who do not fit the provisions necessary to receive city-funded soundproofing for their homes.
“A private operator is gonna look to every avenue to recoup its investment. More flights means more passengers and more revenue from parking and concessions,” Zalewski said. “We’ve always had kind of a quiet-time agreement out there between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Lately, flights are pushing 11 p.m. With a private operator, it takes the gloves off what we can control. The spill-off into the local neighborhood is real."
Although city officials have promoted the potential deal as a positive one that would include a number of protections for Chicago taxpayers, like a maximum 40-year lease, revenue sharing, and safeguards against price gouging at retail shops, restaurants and parking facilities, Zalewski said the possibility of a privatization deal is still up in the air.
“Every other privatization problem was under a different mayor. This one would be squarely on Emanuel. He’d have to wear the jacket for it,” Zalewski told the Sun-Times' Fran Spielman.
“This mayor is smarter than the average bear. He knows that. He has tried to make sure this thing is vetted thoroughly before it’s ever brought to the City Council.”