LAX workers hold strike vote

LOS ANGELES INT'L. AIRPORT Several dozen workers rallied at LAX Wednesday afternoon. About 2,500 airport workers, members of the Service Employees International Union, say they're frustrated with what they call poverty-level wages and a lack of access to affordable health care.

"For me, I have to use county health care because we don't have any," said security guard Robin Wilson. "Every time I go to the doctor, that's $65 out of my pocket, and $65 -- if I have to go four times in a month -- I mean, come on."

"Hopefully, with us taking a stand that we are today, hopefully it gets a little better," said skycap Alfonzo Doty. "Everybody wants Christmas to be a little better in December."

The workers are employed by contractors that serve several major airlines. They handle a wide range of jobs, including baggage handling, security, and wheelchair assistance. They also clean airplane cabins. The jobs have a high turnover rate, which the union says affects the quality of service to passengers.

"Some of the airlines, you wouldn't even want to eat their food," said airline passenger Eileen Boyle. "You don't even want to sit in some of the airline seats, and it's not their fault, not the fault of the workers. It's the fault of the people who run it."

Negotiations have been going on since May, and the unions say the airlines need to step in.

Even though negotiations are scheduled to continue next week, the union decided to take a strike-authorization vote Wednesday.

"The airlines are not engaged and not showing any respect to these workers," said Mike Garcia, president of SEIU Local 1877. "There's only one thing to do is to get the respect and attention we need to get this contract resolved, and that's to strike."

LAX officials released a statement:

"This is a dispute between airline contracted workers and their employers. Any disruption of passenger service will be punishing to those representing every side of this issue." -- Gina Marie Lindsey, Los Angeles World Airports.

Workers say they hope to avoid a strike, but they are prepared to walk off the job.


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