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Protesters clog LAX traffic; 13 arrested

November 21, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
About 1,000 protesters marched Wednesday near the entrance to LAX on one of the busiest travel days of the year.

The two-hour demonstration ended with the arrest of 13 people for failure to move from the intersection of Century and Sepulveda boulevards.

Members of local labor unions and their supporters chanted and waved placards, as traffic heading in and out of LAX came to a complete standstill.

"It's not right that they should hold up everybody for this," said Manny Cukier, who was stuck in the traffic caused by the protest. "It's not fair to the people that have to go places."

The protest added more commotion to the busy LAX area, already congested from the influx of holiday travelers. But the timing of the protest was no coincidence.

"I know we'll cause delay, but at the same time, the message is people working over there (are) not getting paid decent wages," said Mauricio Vasquez.

Mary Murphy said she was trying to pick up her grandson at the airport when she got stuck in the traffic.

"I don't appreciate it at all. They could have found a better time and a better place. This is stupid," she said.

At the heart of the protest was a labor dispute at a company called Aviation Safeguards, which employs about 450 workers at LAX. Union officials say the company walked away from its contract with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

"This is not something that we wanted to do. Aviation put us in a position where we were forced to do this," said LAX employee Robin Wilson. "They put us in a position to run or fight. We chose to fight."

But at a news conference, Aviation Safeguards employees came to the defense of the company.

"We get paid a lot better now than what we did when we were with the union," said one worker.

The company says a majority of their workers voted to leave the union. But members of the SEIU say Aviation Safeguards tricked workers into voting against the union, so they had little choice but to take action on a day that would bring attention to their plight.

"If Aviation Safeguards gets away with this, then every contractor at this airport is going to go nonunion," said Mary Kay Henry, SEIU International president. "We're going to lose benefit jobs, jobs that pay a living wage."


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