Airport passenger assistants shouldn’t be forced to work overtime

If workers refuse, they get written up or can be fired. Workers and their families deserve better.

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Airport passenger assistants help wheelchair passengers.

Airport passenger assistants help wheelchair passengers.

Sun-Times file photo

If you’ve been to the airport, you’ve either come across my co-workers and me or have utilized our services. Wheelchair assistance at airports is vital and makes travel for the elderly and people with disabilities possible.

In 1986, the Air Carrier Access Act was passed, which required airlines to provide free wheelchair service to anyone who requests it. We are needed around the clock, and without us, airlines and airports cannot function.

Every day, I wake up at 6:45 a.m. and get my five kids ready for school. I drop my kids off at their schools, come back home, do the chores, prepare dinner for the kids to reheat later, pick up and drop off the kids from school, then head to my job at 5 p.m. as a passenger service assistant (PSA) at Midway International Airport.

As a PSA, I am responsible for ensuring wheelchair passengers and their luggage get transported to their destination safely. I am on my feet for nearly 10 hours a day, walking 30,000 steps while pushing passengers and handling their luggage. While my co-workers and I should be given our contractual breaks for lunch and rest, they often don’t get approved because it’s too busy.

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Being on my feet all day, without food and physically drained, I push my body to the limit as I count down the minutes until my shift ends. That is, until the dreaded notification comes: mandatory overtime. 

Thirty minutes before we are set to go home, we get notified by management that we need to stay longer — no exceptions. If we don’t, we get written up. The worst case: We get fired. For working parents like myself, this completely alters our day and has a serious impact on our families.

My co-workers and our families deserve better. We deserve time to eat and to use the restroom. We deserve to let our bodies rest during our breaks. We deserve to have the option of whether we stay past our shift.

We are the ones keeping airports up and running. It is time airport contractors such as Scrub and Prospect value and respect the labor of us, essential workers.

Diana Ordaz Quezada, Local 1 member

No need for ticket money

In considering the proposal to change the speed ticket threshold from 6 mph back to 10 mph, we’re being told the city will lose $59 million. Chicago, however, doesn’t need the money. After all, it’s giving away $30 million (5,000 winners get $500/month for 12 months), plus more in gas and transit cards.

As for safety, it’s a case where you don’t mind being lied to as much as the fact that the person telling you the lie thinks you might be dumb enough to believe it.

Larry E. Nazimek, Logan Square

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