A protest march near Los Angeles International Airport has created traffic snarls during one of the busiest travel days of the year ahead of Thanksgiving weekend.
Over a thousand protesters blocked the main street leading to LAX in protest what their union called unfair labor practices by an airport contractor, news outlets reported.
The march reportedly began after the airport's peak travel period, but as a caution authorities urged fliers to add 90 minutes to their normal arrival time.
The Service Employees International Unit (SEIU) – representing janitors, wheelchair attendants, skycaps, security guards and other service workers – staging a demonstration on behalf of airport workers, CBS reported.
The union is in reportedly dispute with an airport services company, Aviation Safeguards (AVSG). It says AVSG broke a contract with the airport, affecting 400 SEIU affiliated workers, and also that it withdrew health insurance for its workers.
The SEIU wrote on its website:
Earlier this year, AVSG walked away from its contract with over 400 LAX workers. Subsequently, AVSG failed to comply with the City’s Living Wage Ordinance, refused to meet with the National Mediation Board, refused to honor contractual terms, and refused to meet with the union to resolve any disputes. Earlier this year, AVSG stopped paying into the health care trust fund for workers’ health care at LAX, effectively cutting off affordable healthcare for AVSG employees and their families. The trust estimates AVSG owes over $4.0M and counting for workers’ health care.
The union obtained a permit to close down Century Boulevard for 45 minutes Wednesday afternoon, but police had to arrest 13 protesters for intentionally sitting on the street and refusing to disperse, the Associated Press reported.
The AP cited Rep. Janice Hahn, D-San Pedro as saying at a news conference that she didn't mind the extra time to catch her own flight to speak on behalf of "invisible" airport workers in jobs such as cleaning planes and pushing disabled people in wheelchairs.
She defended the timing of the protest, saying the issue affected all working people.