In a small but significant victory for the multi-union organizing campaign at Los Angeles International Airport, retail concessionaire W.H.Smith agreed to recognize the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees Union after a majority of its 100 airport workers signed union cards. The so-called card-check election, which bypasses the lengthy National Labor Relations Board election process, was staged at the airport Tuesday morning. "We put the desires and wishes of our employees at the top of the list," said Steve Newton, chief operating officer for W.H.Smith, a London-based book and souvenir vendor with outlets at most major airports. "This was much less stressful than the NLRB process and achieves the same objectives." Contract negotiations should begin soon. Employees now earn the city-mandated living wage of $7.51 per hour plus health benefits. Tom Walsh, president of HERE Local 814, contrasted the smooth recognition process with other "nasty" battles at the airport. "We are hopeful that this step will set the tone for the future," he said. The Respect at LAX campaign, funded by HERE and the Service Employees International Union, as well as the national AFL-CIO, is seeking to unionize a majority of the 50,000 airport workers. About 20,000 currently belong to unions.