O’Hare Airport Strikes: Will Anybody Notice?

Roughly 500 workers went on strike at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on Tuesday. They want a $15 minimum wage and improved working conditions. The Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) it “doesn't anticipate any disruption in service”, according to the Chicago Tribune. O’Hare’s official Twitter account says much the same thing.

Think about that for a minute. If 500 workers are absent for several hours and it hardly affects a thing at the airport, then how essential are they? Strikes are not the best public relations strategy in the first place, since affected travelers are more likely to resent the strikers than join the cause. After all, flight delays and cancellations keep travelers away from their families, can stifle business opportunities, and scuttle family vacations.

But if the CDA is right and travelers don’t even notice, then the strikers are making exactly the opposite point that they intend about their importance.

The “Fight for $15” also depends on people denying the existence of tradeoffs such as higher unemployment, reduced hours, and benefit cuts. I addressed that point in an earlier post. For now, it is enough to point out that the SEIU, which is organizing today’s strike, is not exactly a master of good public relations.