Pilots with United Airlines sent a public letter out on Wednesday, inviting executives and upper-level company management to tour what they've dubbed the "LAX Ghetto." Fast-forward to Thursday, United didn't show — but several reporters did.
Patrick LaClair, a first officer who flies on Boeing 757s and 767s out of LAX, owns a 1985 Champion Titan RV that's currently parked in Lot E. He lives in Phoenix and says that when layovers leave him at LAX, the RV is where he goes for sleep. LaClair is one of two United pilots who do so.
"Home sweet home is 33 feet of tin with my own bed in it," said LaClair. "The reason I got here is because it's an affordability issue. We all took major cuts, made major sacrifices so that the company could continue, and that's how I am able to make my job at United work."
The rest of the lot has dozens of RVs. Some are owned by pilots from other airlines. Many are owned by LAX employees — mechanics, engineers and others — who choose to live there. The park's permit fee is "more than $100" a month.
United pilots are currently still stuck in a labor dispute that stretches back more than a decade. Pilots claim their pay is too low — and that it's been too low since deep cuts following September 11. United pilots currently make 42 percent less than they did in 2003.
They say their jobs are being handed over to outside contractors who fly short-run flights under contract on carriers like United Express and international flights are being handed over to international companies such as Lufthansa.
In a statement, United dismissed the "tour" as "nothing but a union PR campaign."
"The company is focused on working with all of our work groups to reach new contracts that are fair to the company and our employees," the company said.
Airline pilots are governed under 1926's Railway Labor Act, which prevents them from striking.
They are looking for an exemption from the National Mediation Board that allow a strike to give them more leverage. However, thanks to a recent merger with Continental that also combines the companies' unions, they may be gaining that leverage another way.