Denver professor says labor strikes could help minimum wage fight

O'Hare airport workers to join national protest

DENVER, Colo. - On Tuesday, tens of thousands of service workers around the country are planning to walk off the job, to call for an increase in the federal minimum wage.

Contract workers at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago will be among those walking off. The airport workers decided to wait until after the holiday rush to stage their protest.

"As soon as you walk off the job you are risking something," says University of Denver Daniels College of Business Professor Cindi Fukami.

Fukami, an expert in unions and labor disputes, says these workers are taking that risk, in hopes that publicity from the walk off will win them public support. She says in recent years the public has become more sympathetic to the plight of minimum wage workers.  

"I think their timing is better now than it was four years ago because the economy is in much better shape. You can look at the positive votes on minimum wage throughout the country as a sign that people really understand that $8 an hour is not sufficient for a family," says Fukami.

Colorado recently passed a plan to gradually raise the minimum wage from the current $8.31 per hour to $12 per hour by the year 2020.

The contract workers at O'Hare include janitors, baggage handlers, and maintenance workers. They are not part of a union and have fewer protections that union members. Service workers around the country are calling for a federal minimum wage of $15 dollars an hour.

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