O'Hare bookstore firings renew living wage push for Chicago airports

Photo illustration (Chicago Tribune)

Supporters of a living wage ordinance for Chicago airports are using the recent firings of workers to renew their push.

Union leaders said 12 employees were fired from Hudson News in the international terminal at O'Hare International Airport. They're worried many more people could be fired in coming months as the city Aviation Department approves large new concession contracts for eateries and stores at O'Hare and Midway airports.

Jim Baker, a spokesman for the union Unite Here, said several of those fired in recent days were among the highest-paid Hudson workers at O'Hare. The union, which represents about 1,300 workers at the city's airports, has been pushing for a living wage ordinance.

Aviation Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino has opposed the wage standards. She said in an email statement that Hudson fired the workers for cause following a 90-day probation period after Hudson took over operations in the international terminal in November.

"This is a matter between Hudson and the union representing Hudson workers related to the collective bargaining agreement between those two entities," Andolino said in the statement.

Hudson sells books and magazines in the international terminal as part of a contract for Westfield Concession Management to run concessions. Mayor Rahm Emanuel supported the Westfield bid, and the City Council approved the deal last summer.

A Westfield spokesman could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Ald. Jason Ervin, 28th, introduced an airport living wage ordinance to the City Council last fall, but the measure has not received a hearing. Ervin said Thursday that he is concerned by the recent firings and will push for a hearing on his plan in coming weeks.

jebyrne@tribune.com

Twitter @_johnbyrne