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Striking workers return at LAX

Baggage handlers, security personnel and janitors agree to a cooling-off period.

August 30, 2008|David Zahniser and Tami Abdollah | Times Staff Writers

Striking Los Angeles International Airport employees returned to work Friday morning, less than 24 hours after baggage handlers, security personnel and janitors walked off the job after months of failed contract negotiations.

The return to work came after Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa brokered a three-week cooling-off period between the airline service workers and the private companies that LAX contracts with for services.

"I am urging the workers and contractors, with the support of the airlines, to come to a fair agreement that ensures quality services and keeps passengers moving safely and efficiently at the international gateway to Southern California," Villaraigosa said in a statement.

Tanya Aquino, spokeswoman for the Service Employees International Union, said an agreement to resume negotiations was reached early Friday morning after the mayor came to both parties asking them to cooperate.

By 8 a.m., she said, workers who had begun striking at noon Thursday were starting to head back to their jobs.

"We're hopeful that the contractors will come to the table with a new commitment for workers' rights and improved quality services," Aquino said, "the things that workers went on strike for yesterday."

Several hundred members of SEIU Local 1877 went on strike Thursday at the Tom Bradley International Terminal and other terminals serving American, United, Southwest and Northwest airlines.

The action, which threatened to inconvenience air travelers throughout the Labor Day weekend, came after months of inconclusive contract talks with their employers.

Airline service workers are employed by private companies that contract with the airlines to perform support functions at LAX. Those firms provide about 5,000 janitors, skycaps, baggage handlers, aircraft cabin cleaners, security personnel and attendants for travelers with disabilities. About 2,500 of the workers are represented by the SEIU's airport division, the union said.

SEIU officials say the workers, who make an average of $10.50 an hour and do not receive benefits, are asking for health insurance and an increase in their hourly wage of 40 to 50 cents.

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david.zahniser@latimes.com

tami.abdollah@latimes.com

Times staff writer Dan Weikel contributed to this report.

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