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LAX workers go on strike

August 28, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Airline service workers at Los Angeles International Airport went on strike Thursday. Three airlines are affected. However, the big concern is that the strike will spread to other carriers. Twenty-five-hundred service employees at LAX are on strike. The three airlines affected are United, American and Southwest. The workers are not employed by LAX; they're employed by subcontractors. The workers walked off the job at 1:30 Thursday because they say they want higher wages and affordable health care.

These are the airline service workers who do the jobs from the curb to the cabin -- wheelchair attendants, skycaps, janitors and the like. They made their voices heard Thursday afternoon at LAX. They're accusing the companies they work for of civil rights abuses.

"Our main concern is quality," said wheelchair attendant Diamond Gomez. "We assist our passengers for LAX that are disabled. We're not properly trained -- if there's an emergency, we don't know what to do. We need proper benefits for our families; we only have it for ourselves. And we need to be able to pay for our rent and living expenses as well as everything else."

Contract negotiations between the Service Employees International Union and nine contractors that serve major airlines at LAX have broken down. Workers say they want higher wages, more affordable health care, and better training.

"We have some workers that help disabled people, and [they] feel frustrated because they have no training on how to deal with different physical challenges. And also, people that check the planes for dangerous items. So proper training, the proper equipment to do their jobs, as well as quality jobs that pay a decent wage," said SEIU Spokesman Mike Chavez.

"They don't want to give us anything, the companies and the airlines," said janitor Maria Mendoza. "We have to pay rent. Everything is going up and our salaries are still the same."

Despite months of negotiations and the presence of a federal mediator at this week's talks, the two sides were unable to come up with an agreement.

Passengers are already starting to feel the pinch.

"Yeah, take them seriously, they obviously feel very passionately about it," said. "Good for them. Don't know if it will make any difference."

If the union decides to widen the strike, it could affect not only LAX, but also Oakland, San Jose, and San Francisco.

Eyewitness News tried to contact several of the subcontracting companies that employ these workers, but received no comment from any of the companies Thursday.

Eyewitness News Reporter Wendy Burch contributed to this report.

 

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