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Dispute with LAX contractor has workers threatening holiday labor action

October 23, 2012 |  5:19 pm

Airport workers and union officials plan to warn the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday that they might resort to labor actions during the holidays at busy Los Angeles International Airport unless the city revokes the operating license of an airline services company whose employees are no longer unionized.

Members of the Service Employees International Union have targeted Aviation Safeguards, a private firm with 525 employees who serve as security personnel, skycaps and wheelchair assistants at LAX.

SEIU officials say the company walked away from its labor contract by coercing employees to vote against the agreement and without following proper procedures for decertifying union representation.

Company officials say, however, that a majority of their employees willingly voted to reject United Service Workers West, an SEIU local, as their union.

During the last year, airport workers, union officials and their supporters have repeatedly demonstrated at LAX to protest working conditions in general and what they consider to be the improper conduct of Aviation Safeguards.

The company, they say, has violated the city’s living wage ordinance in the way it administered healthcare benefits and rejected all efforts to resolve the labor dispute, including refusing to participate in a hearing before the National Mediation Board. About 20 members of Congress signed a letter expressing their disappointment in the company for not participating.

“By allowing the situation to continue, LAX is punishing the good contractors who do play by the rules,” said Mike Garcia, president of the United Service Workers West. “Things at LAX have gotten out of control, and workers are ready to take action.”

Aviation Safeguards holds a city licensing agreement that allows it to operate on airport property for five years. It has about four years to go on the license, which can be canceled without cause by either party.

Joe Conlon, a regional vice president for Aviation Safeguards, said the firm has a different interpretation of the Los Angeles living wage ordinance and has been meeting with city officials to resolve the issue.

Conlon added that the firm is under no obligation to go before the National Mediation Board because the union has not taken the necessary steps to be recognized by the federal agency as a labor representative for LAX workers.

Union officials estimate that several hundred airline service employees and their supporters will attend the City Council meeting Wednesday. They say the dispute is coming to a peak just weeks before the local’s contracts are set to expire for about 2,000 LAX workers, including cabin cleaners, wheelchair assistants, janitors, cargo workers and baggage handlers.


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