LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A protest by hundreds of employees at Los Angeles International Airport caused delays on what is traditionally known as the busiest travel day of the year.
As many as 1,000 airport workers with the Service Employees International Unit (SEIU), as well as union supporters, marched along Century Boulevard until 1:45 p.m. in protest of what they call unfair labor practices.
The protest ended with 13 demonstrators under arrest for intentionally sitting in the street or not leaving the area.
The union says 400 LAX workers, which includes janitors, wheelchair attendants, skycaps, and security guards, were left without a contract when the private firm, Aviation Safeguards (AVSG), broke its agreement with the airport earlier this year and withdrew all health insurance.
“They just walked away from this contract 11 months ago. What happened is, they left workers without affordable health care, the union contract and they’re compromising good jobs at LAX,” protestor Ernesto Guerrero said.
In addition, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry said Aviation Safeguards illegally lured workers away from SEIU.
A spokesperson for the airport services company, however, told CBS2′s Dave Lopez that the one-time union members voted to decertify and leave SEIU nearly a year ago.
In March, SEIU workers staged a protest outside the Tom Bradley International Terminal, but despite some congestion, passengers were not prevented from entering the building.
An estimated 1.8 million passengers are expected to travel through LAX this holiday weekend.
LAX officials advised travelers to arrive early due to the march: two hours in advance for domestic flights and three hours for international.
Those who drove to LAX were told to expect closures on westbound Century Boulevard between Airport and Sepulveda boulevards during the earlier part of the day and northbound Sepulveda Boulevard between Imperial Highway and 98th St.
Officials encouraged drivers to keep an eye out for detour signs.
“We are adding more traffic officers, more police officers and we’re going to do everything that we can to mitigate the traffic,” said Mary Grady of Los Angeles International Airport.
Officials also recommended that people add 90 minutes to their travel time between 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. if they plan on driving to LAX.
General operations at the airport were not expected to be affected.
‘Operationally, everything will be running smoothly,” said Grady. “There won’t be any LAX employees that will be leaving the job to protest.”