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Chicago O’Hare avoids labor impasse, cargo disruption 

Terminal operator Swissport executes agreement to allow union organizing

Swissport is a large ground handler, providing airlines with ramp, cargo and passenger services. (Photo: Swissport)

A final ground handling agent at Chicago O’Hare International Airport has reached a required labor agreement and will continue cargo operations, sparing several cargo airlines from potential service interruptions.

The Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) on Tuesday notified freighter operators that cargo handler Swissport has signed an agreement with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) establishing parameters for the union to mount a membership drive. The development eliminates the potential for a supply chain disruption.

The two-sentence message said Swissport Cargo “is no longer at risk for license revocation on Jan. 20.”

Alliance Ground International, another major airport service provider, on Friday agreed on a plan for the SEIU to access its facilities and meet with workers. Worldwide Flight Services reached a resolution with the union much earlier. 

The city of Chicago last summer required airport service companies to sign labor peace agreements within 60 days of being approached by any union as a condition for operating at the airport. The controversial agreements, which are becoming more common in public contracts around the country as a way to improve worker conditions, force employers to be neutral during union organizing campaigns and unions not to engage in picketing, work stoppages or other economic interference for a period of time. 

The CDA alerted 20 cargo airlines a month ago that AGI and Swissport, which together control about two-thirds of the cargo moving through O’Hare, could have their licenses pulled if they didn’t comply by the close of business on Jan. 19. The notice urged them to consider alternative arrangements, FreightWaves reported earlier this month

Airlines and freight forwarders complained it was not possible to switch vendors on such short notice and some said they would have to suspend service until they could relocate to other handlers or airports.

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.


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Eric Kulisch

Eric is the Supply Chain and Air Cargo Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government coverage and news analysis, and was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. Eric is based in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached for comments and tips at [email protected]