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Workers at O’Hare stage protest over wages, benefits

O'Hare Airport | File photo

For most travelers, they are little more than a passing blur at the airport.

But the janitors, cabin cleaners and baggage handlers — among others — say they are a vital part of what makes airports run smoothly and safely.

On Thursday, about 100 of them marched at O’Hare Airport — one of eight similar one-day protests planned at airports across the country — to object to what they say are woefully low wages, benefits and a lack of training to handle the kind of terrorist attack that left 35 dead and more than 300 wounded at the Brussels airport earlier this month.

“They don’t care about seniority,” said Michael Robinson, 46, who said he makes $10 an hour and gets no paid vacation. “They hire new people and they give them weekends off.”

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Robinson said he almost always works weekends, even though he’s been on the job for three years.

Others Thursday said they worry what would happen if there were a terrorist incident at O’Hare. One worker, who didn’t want his name used, said he was told to hide under a desk in the event of a terrorist attack.

The striking workers aren’t part of a union, but members of the Service Employees International Union joined the picket line Thursday.

That union is working nationally to unionize the airport workers.

“They don’t have any sort of training to be prepared for what to do in such an emergency, and that’s very worrisome for them and for passengers alike,” said SEIU spokeswoman Izabela Miltko, referring to the Brussels attack.