Working conditions at LAX questioned by Los Angeles city councilmen

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Baggage handlers, wheelchair operators and custodians who clean airplanes at Los Angeles International Airport are made to work in unsafe conditions that leave them with injuries and little recourse, two members of the Los Angeles City Council said today.

Joined by members of the Service Employees International Union, Councilmen Bill Rosendahl and Paul Koretz called on Los Angeles World Airports, the city agency that operates LAX, to report back on the training and safety aspects of the Certified Service Provider Program, which covers 5,000 non-unionized employees. A hearing in the Trade, Commerce and Tourism Committee is scheduled to take place in May. At that time, the councilmen hope to hear about safety programs at other major airports.

"Working conditions are not adequate and it's because we don't have much control over these contractors, not much oversight," Koretz said at a City Hall news conference. "I'm very concerned to hear about how dangerous these working conditions are. It's dangerous for the workers. It's dangerous for the travelers."

Employees are expected to protest the unsafe working conditions at the airport on May 1.

"The renovation efforts at LAX are needed to convert an old and tired airport into a modern one, but its labor practices are also old and archaic and need to be modernized and dignified," said Mike Garcia, president of SEIU United Service Workers West.

In a statement to KPCC, airport spokeswoman Mary Grady said, "Los Angeles World Airports is committed to providing a safe environment for those who work at LAX and the traveling public."

"LAWA will continue to meet with the airlines, service providers and labor unions to create a mutually agreeable program and gain consensus for the proposed standards and enforcement measures. As well, LAWA managers will brief the Board of Airport Commissioners and city council's Trade Commerce and Tourism Committee on the CSPP program status in May."

As for next week's protest at LAX, Grady said that while airport police are working with the unions to minimize the impact of the march, travelers should be prepared for possible delays.

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