LAX workers go on strike, threatening Labor Day weekend disruptions

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Threatening to inconvenience air travelers throughout the Labor Day weekend, several hundred airline service workers - including baggage handlers, security personnel and janitors - walked off the job today Thursday at Los Angeles International Airport after months of inconclusive contract talks with their employers.

Members of the Service Employees International Union Local 1877 went on strike at about noon at the Tom Bradley International Terminal and other terminals serving American, United, Southwest and Northeast Northwest airlines - some of the busiest at the airport. Union officials say they will continue the action through the weekend, when LAX typically sees 850,000 passengers pass through the airport.

The workers are employed by private companies that contract with the airlines at LAX for a variety of services. Those firms provide about 5,000 janitors, skycaps, baggage handlers, aircraft cabin cleaners, security personnel and attendants for travelers with disabilities. About 2,500 of the workers are represented by the SEIU’s airport division.Tim Smith, a spokesman for American Airlines, said that janitors provided by Flagship Services walked off the job at the American terminal - positions, he added, that were being filled by members of Flagship’s management.

American has roughly 180 departures and arrivals a day at LAX. As of this Thursday afternoon, Smith said there have been no flight delays or disruptions of service. “All flight operations are normal,” Smith said. “We are having a good day."Union officials say the workers, who make an average of about $19,000 a year, are asking for health insurance plans and an increase in their hourly wage of 40 to 50 cents. Since the talks began in May, employers have failed to make counteroffers and are bargaining in bad faith, union members charge.