Workers at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport are gearing up to launch a strike on Tuesday in an effort to negotiate for better wages and treatment.
Airlines are looking to keep disruptions to a minimum as an estimated 600 employees, including janitors, baggage handlers, cabin cleaners and wheelchair attendants, are expected to call off work in protest.
Those striking are not union members, but are trying to organize with the backing and assistance of Service Employees International Union Local 1. Mainly employed by private contractors at the airport, the workers are seeking union rights and a $15 per hour wage.
"They provide vital services. They're adults trying to support their family. The airport needs to be an economic engine for the entire city," SEIU Local 1 President Tom Balanoff said.
The demonstration comes approximately two weeks after the employees voted to strike, as they delayed the date so as not to impact travel over the busy Thanksgiving weekend.
"These workers care about their passengers, it was never their intent to disrupt [Thanksgiving] from them," SEIU Local 1 communications director Izabela Miltkoivkovich said ahead of the holiday. "They really want to have the public support them and stand with them in this fight for a better future."
"The workers aren't necessarily striking to shut the airport down. They're striking to elevate their message and their concern," Balanoff added.
The workers are expected to be joined by up to 2,000 supporters as they picket outside the airport on Tuesday.
It wasn't immediately clear how the strike will affect operations at O'Hare, one of the nation's busiest airports, but major airlines said there are procedures in place to keep operations running smoothly.
"We are taking the necessary steps to ensure a safe and on-time operation for our customers," United Airlines spokesperson Charles Hobart said in a statement.
"We are working closely with our vendors to ensure there is no disruption to our operation," American Airlines spokesperson Leslie Scott said, adding, "American supports better pay for workers across the board, but does not believe initiatives should target a specific group or industry."