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LAX Workers Join Worldwide Protest To Demand Higher Wages

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Operations at Los Angeles International Airport were reported to be running smoothly amid a protest held Tuesday by airport workers as part of demonstrations at 40 airports in 13 countries seeking better wages, safer workplaces and other demands.

The protest, which began at the Terminal 4 departures level, was organized by Service Employees International Union, the International Transport Workers' Federation and the UNI Global Union.
Frederick Badlissi, a spokesman for LAX, said the protest did not impact operations at the airport or delay any flights. He also said he did not have an estimate as to how many people took part in the protest.

"At LAX, my union SEIU-United Service Workers West has fought to double wages and win full family health care," wheelchair attendant Tim Maddox said before the protest. "Now we are fighting back against airlines like American and Southwest who are trying to undermine those gains ... we will be out in force telling airlines they need to play an important role in our communities by providing good union jobs at airports at LAX and across the entire country."

SEIU said workers such as baggage handlers, security officers, cabin cleaners, janitors, wheelchair attendants and others help provide large profits to the global airline industry, which they say is projected to earn profits of $38.4 billion in 2018 – while the companies' workers struggle to make ends meet on low wages and often without benefits or paid days off.

"If you work hard, you should be able to provide for your family, save for the future and make sure your children have a chance to get ahead," U.S. Senate candidate Kevin de León said in a statement. "That's true for airport workers as well. Major airlines take billions in tax dollars every year. They have the responsibility - and the ability-to stand up for good, union jobs and to stop driving the race to the bottom at airports around the world."

SEIU said in the U.S., nearly half of all airport workers skip meals or go hungry, and nearly 30 percent rely on public assistance. But the protest is also aimed at raising awareness of conditions in other countries.

According to SEIU officials, in Thailand, some airport workers are paid just $10 a day, which is half of the living wage for that country, and airport workers in Indonesia are only paid $1.50 an hour, which is far below what it takes to cover basic necessities.

The union also said some major U.S. airlines receive help from public tax dollars but make large profits by charging excessive fees, including United Airlines, which received $44 billion in taxpayer support last year but brought in the most of any airline in ancillary income, which includes baggage fees and reservation change fees, at $5.7 billion.

"United Airlines is committed to treating all of our employees fairly, providing them with competitive compensation and industry-leading benefits and privileges and creating a safe, supportive work environment, whether or not they are represented by a union," United Airlines said in a statement.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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