Union Representation Dispute : Airport Janitors Sue Over Pay, Firing of 2 Men

Times Staff Writer

The San Diego Unified Port District and a maintenance company hired by the district to clean Lindbergh Field terminals were sued Friday by several janitors and a service employees union who say some workers are not receiving the pay and other benefits required by contract.

Port District spokesman Dan Wilkens said the Port District is aware of the dispute between Calhoun Maintenance Co.--the agency hired to perform airport cleaning services--and the janitors, and that the Board of Port Commissioners has ordered an investigation to determine if the company is abiding by the contract. Wilkens would not comment on the lawsuit.

What began as a routine labor dispute two weeks ago has taken a nasty turn, with the union charging that Calhoun fired two janitors because they signed a petition asking the company to recognize Service Employees Union Local 102 as the janitors’ representative.

Jose Hernandez and Juan Aldrette said they were fired at the end of their shift last Saturday morning allegedly for sleeping on the job, but Hernandez said they were fired for signing the petition and inquiring about benefits that are due to some of the workers.


Contract Obligations

According to the lawsuit filed in San Diego County Superior Court, Calhoun is obligated under its contract with the Port District to pay janitors a $5.39 minimum hourly wage plus health benefits, or an additional 32 cents an hour in lieu of the benefits.

Eliseo Medina, director of Local 102, said that, of 82 janitors working at the airport, about 14 are earning $4.25 an hour without benefits, and 68 are being paid $5.39 an hour. But of the latter group, 35 workers are not receiving health benefits or the additional 32 cents an hour, as required by the contract, Medina said.

David Lessard, a Calhoun company official, declined to comment on the suit. Lessard said that company officials in Minnesota will comment after they review the lawsuit.


Medina said that Calhoun has refused to allow an election for its employees to vote on union representation. According to the petition for union recognition, airport janitors who are being paid $5.39 an hour have not received a raise in four years.

Union officials have also charged that airport manager Bud McDonald has sided with Calhoun in an attempt to keep the union out. The janitors said they are the largest group of airport workers without union representation. McDonald was out of the country Friday and unavailable for comment.

On Friday, several dozen janitors and supporters from other airport unions picketed peacefully in front of the East Terminal.

The lawsuit asks for $25,000 in punitive damages and $25,000 in general damages for each worker said to be underpaid, and reinstatement of the two janitors who were fired last week.