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Labor organizers prepare for protest march at LAX

As taxicab passengers unloaded their bags and swarms of travelers descended on LAX on Wednesday, a woman in traditional Aztec dress lifted a seashell to her mouth and blew into it to start a choreographed dance and then loudly proclaimed, "Liberty for all!"

In the background, organizers with the Service Employees International Union-USWW passed out fliers to passengers, describing a labor dispute with an airport-associated contractor and a plea for better jobs and benefits at the airport.

The union's march and rally Wednesday near Los Angeles International Airport is expected to snarl traffic and cause delays. Airport officials warn the protest will shut down some nearby streets for a few hours and suggested those traveling between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. arrive an hour and a half ahead of their normal schedule.

The protest and march will be held around the intersection of Airport and Century boulevards and is being organized by county labor leaders and unions who highlighted the fact that Wednesday's action was not a strike, just a march.

“LAX jobs used to be good jobs that allowed its workers to pass on a better life; now LAX is holding back hard-working people and the communities around the airport,” USWW President Mike Garcia said in a statement.

During the last year, airport workers, SEIU officials and their supporters have repeatedly demonstrated at LAX to protest working conditions and what they consider to be improper conduct by Aviation Safeguards, an airline services company whose employees are no longer unionized.

Aviation Safeguards is a private firm that has 450 employees who work as security personnel, skycaps, baggage handlers and wheelchair assistants for airlines at LAX. The date for the protest was likely chosen by union officials because the day before Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel days of the year.

Organizers said they expect more than 1,000 people to join the march. Traffic in and around the airport actually seemed fairly smooth Wednesday morning and many travelers were surprised at how quickly they made it to the airport.

But some travelers were frustrated. Approaching a security checkpoint and on her way to Virginia, 37-year-old Jennifer Diaz of Redondo Beach said she, her husband and two children ended up arriving at the airport two hours earlier than normal Wednesday morning.

"We saw the news, so we decided to come earlier," Diaz said. "So far things look pretty good."

But she had some harsh words for the union organizers: "The protest is completely selfish." Diaz lamented that because it's Thanksgiving this week, there are "so many people trying to get where they need to go."


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-- Ari Bloomekatz at LAX and Dan Weikel

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