May Day at LAX

Search form

May Day at LAX

May Day at LAX
Tue, 5/1/2012 - by Michael Levitin

LAX

Gathering workers onto buses in the pre-dawn hours, a coalition of unions from across Los Angeles made for L.A. International Airport Tuesday to engage in a nationwide general strike, calling for greater organizing rights and safer working conditions for the airport’s 4,000 non-unionized employees. About 1,200 members of United Service Workers West are expected to participate in today's demonstration and march, starting at noon at the Tom Bradley International Terminal.

“People see the conditions in the terminal but not what goes on below the terminal—the issues of health and safety, where people have serious accidents on a regular basis, cargo accidents, their hands get crushed…[and] it’s not unusual that someone comes away with an accident that is terminal damage,” said David Huerta, vice president of United Service Workers West, the coalition of unions numbering some 40,000 workers in Los Angeles, which is leading the strike at LAX.

Huerta said that in the run-up to May Day, cargo companies tried to intimidate workers by threatening them with discharge if they engaged in activities around the strike. “There’s a lot of pressure on these workers to stand down," he said. "they’ve been told that if they walk out they could lose their jobs.”

And he said it was the union coalition’s responsibility to stand by the workers in the event of mass firings. “If anybody is treated unjustly by LAX then we’re going to be prepared to respond immediately. We’re going to do what we have to do so that workers are given the right to engage. They should be considered heroes for speaking up.

“That’s what’s wrong in this country,” he said. “People should have a right to take part in these types of activities—to stand and be counted—without losing their livelihoods.”

Many workers at LAX fail to receive health insurance though they’re sub-contracted by some of the biggest and most profitable airlines and cargo movers in the country. The average wage for a cargo worker at LAX is just over $11 an hour, and many of the uninsured have their health care costs imposed on top of those wages.

Additionally, workers at LAX have been denied the right to union representation—a point Huerta hopes to expose in Tuesday’s strike.

“We’ve been at it several months, bringing this to the attention of the city, the airlines, the airport commissioner of L.A. The workers have made it very clear what their goals are: they need protections in the workplace, both keeping safe and also in context of employers. They seek representation to give themselves a voice in the workplace,” he said

The airport workers are targeting several sub-contractors that service the airlines, including Aviation Safeguards, Menzies Aviation and Swissport International. In case of Aviation Safeguards, the company ended collective bargaining and is now trying to unilaterally cancel its contract with workers. “The workers have said over and over and been very clear that they have not elected to remove the union and have asked to continue to be represented by SEIU,” said Huerta, who added that he spent much of the last day driving around with colleagues visiting workers at their houses, encouraging them to come out on May Day.

Janitors, security officers and public events employees also contributed to the USWW coalition leading the strike.

“The economic condition is such that workers are barely making the living wage they should be receiving," Huerta said. "You put those two combinations together—an expendable workforce whose economic conditions are so low, and the health and safety conditions where workers are going in there and putting themselves at great risk—and it represents the true conditions that people have been left with in the workplace: the lack of a voice, the lack of representation, the lack of ability to be able to improve their lives.

“This strike is very significant," he added. "These workers are in the midst of trying to put themselves in the middle of the labor struggle: to organize, to get workers to join unions, to be a solid voice like they were 30, 40, 60 years ago. And we’re committed to moving this forward as far as possible. The 99% versus the 1% is the classic story of David vs. Goliath. Occupy, along with community and coalition groups, can make a change in the lives of everyday people. It’s invaluable for labor, for its community partners, for Occupy, for all of us to work collectively to create that change.”

Elsewhere in L.A., rallies started early as well, with “Four Winds” marches heading in different directions toward distinct parts of the city, including car and bicycle caravans that converged in high density areas the downtown financial district.

Article Tabs

Despite propaganda from Big Ag, biotech and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, surveys show vast majority of residents in Washington, Oregon and Idaho want to know what's in their food.

When a journalist in a news article refers to a woman as “strident,” you know what you’re reading is a hit piece – and that's what the New York Times produced about Occupy Wall Street activist McMillan.

A new kind of tracking tool, canvas fingerprinting, is being used to follow visitors to thousands of top websites, from WhiteHouse.gov to YouPorn.

Reporting that CEOs in the U.K. earn 162 times more than the average worker, the High Pay Centre calls on government to put immediate caps on executive salaries.

On Monday, 80 protesters with Utah Tar Sands Resistance halted access to equipment where the company seeks to begin work on the first fuel-producing tar sands mine in the state.

In the 80s and 90s they called them "IMF Riots" – but what the biggest international investment organizations and consultants now see happening looks a whole lot bigger.

Posted 6 days 1 hour ago

Part 3: Chris Hedges interviewed Harvard professor and MayDay SuperPAC founder Lawrence Lessig about his plans to break the hold of big money on American elections.

Posted 6 days 1 hour ago

Patient details were shared with organizations including private health insurance companies, many based in the United States.

Posted 6 days 1 hour ago

The aggressive foreclosures and water shut-offs are a deliberate scheme to shock the population, drive long-time residents out of the city center, seize property and gentrify downtown Detroit and the waterfront.

Posted 6 days 1 hour ago

All over the world, publics are beginning to reject the privatization mantra – because the privatizers, it turns out, have a serious problem with their pitch.

Posted 6 days 1 hour ago

When you are poor you can instantly disappear into the subterranean rabbit holes of our vast jail and prison complex.

How Safe Are America's Pipelines?

Over the last few years a series of incidents have brought pipeline safety to national attention. “It's inevitable that as pipelines age, as they are exposed to the elements, eventually they are going to spill.”

Apple isn't the only gigantic corporation avoiding taxes. Google, whose founding mantra was "don't be evil," is bending over backward to avoid paying up.

The movement toward healthy local-grown food is growing and it's growing fast.

New York Attorney General's JP Morgan Lawsuit: Too Little, Too Late

This pre-election stunt suit is made up of old evidence and could have been filed years ago.

Sign Up