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Restaurant Union Complains : Airport, Caterer Are Accused of Age Bias

Times Staff Writer

Former restaurant and catering workers at Burbank Airport on Tuesday accused the airport and its new food-service company, Host International, of illegally discriminating against 15 older workers by refusing to hire them.

The workers, represented by Local 11 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union, filed an age-discrimination complaint Friday with the Federal Contract Compliance Administration against the airport. They plan to file a similar complaint this week with the state Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Host International, said union representative Jennifer A. Skurnik.

Charles A. Conine, Host International vice president, said age “was not a consideration at all,” and that applicants of all ages were hired. “Our policy is and remains to hire the best-qualified person possible,” he said.

The union made public a letter by state Assemblyman Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles) to the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Polanco, citing age-discrimination complaints, protested the transfer of a liquor license from the airport’s former food-service company, Greyhound Food Management, to Host International.

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“We believe Host had the intention of not hiring these workers because of their age,” Skurnik told a news conference at the airport. “Most of these are dedicated, older workers.”

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The labor dispute began after Greyhound Food Services lost its contract with the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority to operate the airport’s restaurants and bars and provide food for airliners. Host International required Greyhound workers to apply for their former jobs.

“As far as we can tell, the airport commission is bound by federal anti-discrimination laws and guidelines, including as a contractor,” Skurnik said. “So if Host fails to abide by those guidelines, then that is grounds to terminate the lease.” Violations could jeopardize federal aid to the airport, void Host International’s contract and block its application for a liquor license, she said.

Of 15 former workers hired by Host International, only four were over 40, Skurnik said. Of 52 former Greyhound workers, 23 were not hired by Host International, according to minutes from a meeting of the airport authority. Of those, 15 are between 40 and 66, the union said.

Airport spokesman Victor J. Gill said there is no connection between the hiring practices of Host International and the airport’s access to federal funds because “we are not in a contractual relationship with any of the employees at the airport.”

Gill noted that the commission appealed to Host International to retain Greyhound’s employees and commended the company for hiring 15 former workers.

Skurnik said Local 11 has been picketing at the airport almost every day for nearly a month. She said the union decided to file complaints after “we noticed that the new workers were young and most of our workers were over 40.”

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