September 16, 2016
By Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel
Chicago, IL – Service Employees International Union Local 1 announced Sept. 7 that it had filed 80 wage-theft complaints with city and state agencies, estimating that contractors at O’Hare Airport cheated their workers out of more than $1 million in pay.
The union said its survey of 300 low-wage nonunion workers such as cabin cleaners and wheelchair attendants found 39% had worked early, late, or during breaks without getting paid for it, and 90% of workers making below minimum wage because they receive tips didn’t get enough gratuities to reach the city minimum of $10.50. There is “a lot of pressure to report tips we did not even make,” Oliwia Pac, 24, told the Chicago Tribune. “Many of us just go along with it… because we need the jobs.” “It's money that they're stealing from me,” cabin cleaner Martin Chavez, 19, said, showing a temp-agency check for $595 take-home pay for two weeks where he regularly worked 11 to 12 hours a day for $10.50 an hour. A complaint to the Illinois Department of Labor alleges that Chavez was cheated out of $682.50. Local 1 President Tom Balanoff said Mayor Rahm Emanuel could refuse to renew city contracts with companies that underpay workers and that the state needs “to be aggressive about going out there about wage theft.” Read more