Striking LAX workers return to jobs

Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

Striking Los Angeles International Airport workers returned to work this morning, less than 24 hours after baggage handlers, security personnel and janitors walked off the job Thursday following months of failed negotiations with their employers.

The return to work came after Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa brokered a three-week “cooling off” period between the airline service workers and the private companies that contract with LAX for services.

“I am urging the workers and contractors, with the support of the airlines, to come to a fair agreement that ensures quality services and keeps passengers moving safely and efficiently at the international gateway to Southern California,” Villaraigosa said in a statement.

Tanya Aquino, spokeswoman for Service Employees International Union, said an agreement to return to the negotiating table was reached early this morning after the mayor came to both parties asking them to cooperate.

By 8 a.m. she said workers, who had begun striking at noon Thursday, were starting to head back on the job.

“We’re hopeful that the contractors will come to the table with a new commitment for workers rights and improved quality services,” she said. “The things that workers went on strike for yesterday.”

Several hundred members of the SEIU Union Local 1877 went on strike Thursday at the Tom Bradley International Terminal and other terminals serving American, United, Southwest and Northwest airlines -- some of the largest at the airport.

The action, which threatened inconvenience air travelers throughout the Labor Day weekend to came after months of inconclusive contract talks with their employers, private companies that contract with LAX.

Airline service workers are employed by private companies that contract with the airlines at LAX. 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, the union said.

SEIU officials say the workers, who make an average of $10.50 an hour and do not receive benefits, are asking for health insurance and an increase in their hourly wage of 40 to 50 cents.

Times staff writer Dan Weikel contributed to this report.;