10 Arrested at Airport Janitors' Sit-In : Labor: A group of fired janitors and union officials stage a protest at Lindbergh Field over the firing of 55 employees by a maintenance company that they say is anti-union.


Ten people, including union officials, were arrested Thursday at Lindbergh Field during a protest over the firings of 55 union janitors by a new maintenance company hired to clean the airport.

A Harbor Police spokesman said the 10 were cited for trespassing and released on a promise to appear later in court. Police said the protest was peaceful and reported no serious incidents.

Eliseo Medina, president of the Service Employees International Union, Local 102, was among those arrested at the sit-in. Medina and other Local 102 officials organized the protest to bring attention to the firings by World Services Inc.

Company officials were awarded a janitorial contract for Lindbergh Field in May by the Board of Port Commissioners. World began servicing the airport July 1 and fired 55 of 70 union janitors.

The workers, who had struggled for years to win union representation, were replaced with non-union employees. Some of the fired employees had worked at the airport for more than 10 years.

The company has refused to negotiate with Local 102, which organized the janitors in 1987, Medina said. Between 1979 and 1987, the janitors had their wages frozen at $5.30 an hour. The workers were earning $5.66 an hour when World was awarded the contract, said Medina.

Last month, the union complained to the Port District about what it said was World's record as an "anti-worker and anti-union" employer. The union recited a litany of complaints about the company's alleged unfair employment practices in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Despite doing business in California for about seven years, a World official acknowledged at the same meeting that the company had failed to register with the state.

Medina said the union has organized more sit-ins today and Saturday to pressure the Port District to intervene on behalf of the fired workers.

However, late Thursday afternoon, Medina said the union was ordered to appear at 10:45 a.m. today in San Diego Superior Court, where Port District attorneys will seek an injunction to stop the planned protests.

Port spokesman Dan Wilkens said he could not confirm the scheduled court hearing, but criticized Local 102 for staging Thursday's demonstration.

"It's certainly a lamentable situation in every way. But we were forced (to call Harbor Police) because of the actions of the union, which sought to disrupt the normal flow of the public to the airlines," said Wilkens. "We didn't want to do this. We asked the union not to do the sit-in demonstrations."

Meanwhile, commissioners have been reviewing the company's operation and are expected to decide at Tuesday's meeting whether to cancel the Port District's contract with World. Company President Samuel L. Kim and Vice President Joseph Mrozewski were unavailable for comment. Chen Park Lee, the company's airport manager, was also unavailable for comment.

At least one commissioner has complained that the Port District acted too hastily in awarding a cleaning contract to World. Commissioner Lynn Schenk said last month that commissioners did not have enough background information about the company when they awarded it the contract.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World