City workers union strikes briefly at L.A. Airport

Times Staff Writers

Nearly 250 unionized city workers staged a strike for several hours Sunday at Los Angeles International Airport to protest the amount of a recent pay hike, but the job action did not appear to cause any major disruptions on one of the busiest travel days of the year.

The strikers, from the nearly 8,000-member Engineers and Architects Assn., massed at a few intersections on the bottom level of the double-decker roadway that runs through the airport.

The peaceful protesters generally obeyed traffic lights as they marched amid pedestrians, slowing traffic at an already congested LAX.

Los Angeles police issued citations to about 10 picketers for crossing against stoplights but reported no serious incidents.

The picketers did not contribute to flight delays, airport officials said.

The strike began at 3 p.m. and lasted until about 6:15 p.m., ending before the biggest crush of holiday fliers began returning around 8 p.m.

"We have a deployment of law enforcement officers to ensure that any negative impact to airport operations is minimized," said Nancy Castles, an airport spokeswoman. "At this point in time, it is going very smoothly."

Union leaders said that at least four Teamster truck drivers who take fuel to planes from a nearby storage site had walked off the job; Castles said that the airport field staff could not verify the assertion.

The most essential Engineers and Architects Assn. workers, including operations personnel who work on runways and others involved in information technology, were barred by court order last summer from walking off the job.

For their part, some travelers seemed more bothered by long check-in lines than picketers jamming sidewalks outside Terminal 1 and other airport locations.

"It's actually not that bad," said Josh Brandt-Young, an Oakland resident catching a flight back to the Bay Area. "After Thanksgiving, you'd expect that it would be very, very busy and crowded."

Robert G. Aquino, the union's executive director, said his members wanted to call attention to what they deemed an inadequate 6.25% pay increase over three years that was imposed by the city last summer.

Members of the union -- which represents accountants, chemists, forensic scientists and other workers across a wide range of city departments -- had been working for two years without a contract and wanted an increase similar to a larger one granted to workers from the Department of Water and Power.

Engineers and Architects Assn. officials say their members earn from $36,000 to about $120,000 annually, but most make about $60,000 or less.

Union members, who staged a two-day walkout in August, said they were planning further spot strikes in the near future in other city departments.


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