LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Police arrested 13 protesters at Los Angeles International Airport who staged a demonstration on behalf of airport workers during one of the busiest travel days of the year.
The Service Employees International Unit (SEIU) – which represents janitors, wheelchair attendants, skycaps, security guards and other service workers – obtained a permit to close down Century Boulevard for 45 minutes Wednesday afternoon, but several protesters were arrested for intentionally sitting on the street.
Anyone who didn’t clear out of the area by 1:45 p.m. when the permit expired was also arrested, according to police.
The union says 400 workers were left without a contract when LAX contractor Aviation Safeguards (AVSG) broke its agreement with the airport earlier this year.
SEIU President Mary Kay Henry said the private firm also illegally lured workers away from SEIU.
Nearly a year ago, 52 percent of union workers voted to switch to Aviation Safeguards from SEIU for what they say are better benefits.
“As far as the union, they keep intimidating us. They keep pushing us to go with them, but we are not part of them. We don’t want to do anything with them,” worker Martin Storm told CBS2’s Kara Finnstrom. “We are actually getting paid a lot better, and I have better health insurance than I did with the union.”
Still, some of Wednesday’s demonstrators marched in protest of what they are calling unfair labor practices.
“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,” protester Ernesto Guerrero said.
KCAL9’s Dave Lopez spoke with several protesters who weren’t aware of the battle between the labor union and the airport services company.
“Do you work at the airport?” he asked one woman.
“No, I don’t work at the airport, but I’m supporting them,” she said.
“What do you do then, if I may ask?” he questioned.
“I work in retail,” she answered.
“OK, but you’re just here to support?” he inquired.
“Yeah, just to support,” she responded.
“But you understand that there is a big union battle going on, or that doesn’t matter?” he asked.
“No, it does matter,” she replied.
“Okay, because I heard that a lot of union members don’t want this. You don’t know about that?” he questioned.
“No,” she said.
Lopez then interviewed another woman who also seemed unaware most workers are against the SEIU.
“Are you a union employee for the airport?” he asked.
‘No,” she said.
“Who do you work for?” Lopez asked.
“For Macy’s,” she responded.
“OK, but you’re here to what?” he asked.
“To support,” she said.
“To support, but you don’t know anything about the fact that a lot of the union members who work for the airport don’t want this to happen?” he questioned.
“No,” she answered.