Friday, August 22, 2008

Airport service workers vote to authorize strike at LAX

AWU-SEIU Local 1877Service workers at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike. About 95% of the workers, represented by Airport Workers United, which is part of Service Employees International Union Local 1877, voted in favor of giving union negotiators the go-ahead to call a strike at any time.

The union has been seeking increases in pay and benefits for those employed as sky caps, baggage handlers, wheelchair attendants, airplane cabin cleaners and security personnel who monitor terminals and cargo areas. A Los Angeles Times article about the strike vote quotes union spokesman Mike Chavez who said that workers are paid an average of $10 an hour and 97% have no health care for their families. As a result, job turnover rate has gone up to 50% in some cases. The workers are asking for better job training, increased pay, improved medical coverage, equipment and staff support.

The airport service workers do not work directly for airlines. Rather, they work for several companies that provide services to the airlines under contract. The union is trying to negotiate contracts individually with each of the employers.

The union represents about 5,000 airport service workers, half of whom work at Los Angeles International Airport. The rest work at airports throughout California, including at San Jose International Airport, San Francisco International Airport and Oakland International Airport. If a strike is called, presumably it could affect those airports as well as LAX.

No date has been set for a strike. Union representatives said contract negotiations had stalled, but are scheduled to begin again next week. Should talks break down, a strike may be called.

UPDATE Aug. 29, 2008: About 1,500 workers at Los Angeles International Airport walked of the job yesterday after the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1877 called a strike. According to a press release issued by the union, they returned to work today, following a call by the Mayor of Los Angeles for all parties to go back to the negotiating table.