August 29, 2008
Striking Workers Return to LAX Jobs
By Art Marroquin
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa ordered striking airline service employees back to work Friday at Los Angeles International Airport to allow for peaceful negotiations during a three-week "cooling off period."
The strike was called off at 8 a.m. today, less than 24 hours after hundreds of janitors, baggage handlers, wheelchair attendants, security guards and other airport workers walked off the job when their union reached an impasse with employers.
The strike could have dealt a devastating financial blow to cash- strapped airlines and threatened to delay flights for some 825,000 travelers expected to pass through LAX during the Labor Day weekend.
"In these difficult times for the airline industry and for hard- working Angelenos at the airport, we must come together to find a solution that meets the needs of workers and the airline industry," Villaraigosa said in a statement. "I am urging the workers and contractors, with the support of the airlines, to come up with a fair agreement that ensures quality services and keeps passengers moving safely and efficiently at the international gateway to Southern California."
Airline service workers represented by Service Employees International Union Local 1877 are demanding pay raises, more health benefits and better job training. The workers earn an average of $10.50 per hour and are not provided with health care packages that cover their entire families.
In total, about 5,000 service employees work for private firms contracted by airlines operating at LAX, about half of whom belong to the SEIU's airport division. Contract negotiations began in May, but the union's labor pact with nine of the employers have been expiring since last month.
Airline service workers at San Francisco International Airport are scheduled to hold a rally this afternoon to discuss their ongoing labor negotiations, according to union spokesman Mike Chavez.
"We're really hopeful that we will see a new commitment from contractors to bargain in good faith, respect workers' rights and provide better service and security at LAX, San Francisco and other airports," Chavez said. "The workers made a strong statement during the strike, and we hope the employers will finally realize we mean business."
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