City officials need to do all they can to help the 12,000 Los Angeles International Airport workers who have lost their jobs as a result of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But the solution isn't to try to balance airport security with job security, no matter how wrenching the pleas of the hundreds of laid-off workers who marched on City Hall this week. Airport security tips the balance. It has to come first.
By commandeering commercial airliners to use as missiles against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, terrorists turned a nation of frequent fliers into fearful ones. A drastic decrease in passengers led airlines to cut back schedules and lay off tens of thousands of employees nationwide, from pilots to baggage handlers.
Tight new security measures ordered by the Federal Aviation Administration led to other job losses. Eliminating curbside check-in cost skycaps their jobs. Barring anyone without a ticket from passing security checkpoints meant less business for restaurants, gift shops and newsstands. At LAX, a ban on parked cars within 300 feet of a terminal has shut down the parking garages next to the central terminals and put 350 parking lot attendants and cashiers out of work.
Mayor James K. Hahn wants LAX commissioners to apply for a waiver to reopen the parking garages and lift a ban on private cars.
It is possible that not all the measures rushed through after the Sept. 11 attacks will or should stay in place. Some may be superseded by measures announced by President Bush Thursday that, while falling short of federalizing airport security workers, would provide federal oversight, fortify cockpits and put more armed marshals on planes. (Bush called on state governors to use National Guard troops to augment security in the near term, saying the new measures will take four to six months to fully implement.)
But this much is certain: Decisions must be based on how best to secure airports, period. The industry is not going to recover if passengers don't feel safe. Putting safety first is not just the right thing to do; it's the only way to revive the airline industry and the jobs that depend on it.
Laid-off workers here deserve the city's help, not a guarantee that things will return to the way they were. The city department that runs airports has put together a task force to look for ways to avoid more layoffs and to redeploy those who have already lost their jobs. It has put some parking attendants to work staffing the newly created off-site passenger drop-off and pickup points. LAX officials are speeding up plans to expand the Van Nuys-based bus service that shuttles San Fernando Valley residents to LAX and to begin similar bus service from downtown, the South Bay and other areas, all of which will need to be staffed.
Laid-off workers can call (800) FORAJOB for city assistance in finding work or applying for state unemployment benefits; Gov. Gray Davis already has waived the one-week application waiting period. The city should ask employers citywide to call if they have jobs to offer; private security guards are in demand since Sept. 11.
Each airport union has an emergency assistance program to help with food aid, rent and mortgage payments and other needs. United Way of Greater Los Angeles, which has raised and sent money to help New York City, has funds for local emergencies and is helping the unions by conducting workshops on utility assistance programs and food banks. Individuals who have been so generous in responding to this national calamity should be given a city number to call to help.
These are the kinds of steps being taken in New York, where the toll from the terrorist attacks is 100,000 jobs--and more than 6,000 lives. Such numbers surely put the costs of extra security in perspective.