Quick Hit Ellyn Fortino Wednesday December 11th, 2013, 3:57pm

Ald. Brookins Calls For Hearing On Inequality Among Chicago Airport Concession Workers

Workers at the Hudson News bookstore at both Midway and O'Hare International airports say the company is not treating its North and South Side employees equally, and they want the Chicago City Council to investigate the issue.

Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), one of the airport workers' advocates, introduced a non-binding resolution at Wednesday's city council meeting that calls on the Aviation Committee to hold a hearing about the compensation system and personnel practices the company uses at both locations.

Hudson Midway workers receive an average hourly wage of $8.92, while Hudson O'Hare employees are paid an average of $10.05 per hour, Brookins' resolution reads. Hudson News workers at O'Hare earn an average of $1.13 more an hour than their counterparts at Midway, according to the hospitality union Unite Here Local 1, which represents the Hudson News workers at O’Hare and Midway.

"Why, if you do the same work at the same company in the same city, do you get paid less money?" Brookins said at a Wednesday morning news conference.

The Hudson O'Hare employees are working with a union contract, while the Midway workers are not, although their contract is currently being negotiated, according to union officials.

"Even if you were in the process of negotiating a contract, it doesn’t make sense for people who work the exact same job to be paid so significantly less than their counterpart," noted Brookins, leader of the city council's Black Caucus. "It only makes good business sense that you would take equal jobs and treat those people equally."

Workers at the Hudson O'Hare have a pension program and their contract guarantees raises.

"Our union contract at Hudson O'Hare provides job security, which enables me to provide for my family," explained Margaret Shields, 40, a mother of two who has worked at the O'Hare Hudson News location for two years. "I enjoy my job ... I know that my Hudson coworkers on the South Side also (do) the same hard work as I, and I really truly belive that they deserve the same benefits and job security on the South Side as the workers on the North Side."

Ovidio Jimenez, a stock associate at Hudson Midway, said after six years with the company, he makes just $9.57 an hour. Stock associates at Hudson O'Hare, however, make $9.85 after just one year on the job, according to the union.

"I work hard to be able to provide for my family," Jimenez said. "I have two daughters ... and want to be able to send them to college."

Jimenez became emotional talking about his situation, explaining how job security, a pension, and guaranteed raises would make a big impact on his family.

"I would be in a better position to pay for my family and to send my girls to college," he said, wiping away tears. "As an airport worker on the South Side, we do the same job as workers on the North Side, but I feel like we're not being treated with respect, because we're not being treated equally."

Meanwhile, the "Stable Jobs, Stable Airports" ordinance, which would guarantee airport workers a “living wage” has remained dormant since Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) introduced it in October 2011.

"Two years ago, we talked about setting a standard in the airports for the workers," said Ervin, who stood in solidarity with the airport workers and the resolution. "I think we need to renew that push."

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