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Council launches push to get health insurance for workers at LAX

May 14, 2009|Dan Weikel

The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday launched an effort to provide health insurance for about 5,000 low-income workers at Los Angeles International Airport by increasing the hourly wage required under the city's "living-wage" ordinance.

In a unanimous vote, the council directed the city attorney to draft a revision for the law that could boost the hourly wage of airport workers from $11.25 to between $13 and $14. Council members required that the proposed amendment be returned to them within 30 days for further consideration.

"There is not enough living in the current living-wage ordinance," said Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who supports the revision. "We are planning to invest billions of dollars to renovate LAX, and we need to invest in the workers who keep that airport operating every day."

If approved, the change would affect thousands of people hired by private contractors, which perform a variety of services for airlines and aviation-related companies at LAX. Those firms provide janitors, skycaps, baggage handlers, aircraft cabin cleaners, security personnel and attendants for travelers with disabilities.

Although they are not city employees, the workers are covered by the 1997 living-wage ordinance, which generally applies to businesses with city contracts. Under the law's two-tiered structure, employers must either pay $11.25 an hour or $10 an hour with a $1.25 contribution to a health insurance plan for the employee.

However, the $1.25 a hour differential has not been increased in more than a decade although the cost of healthcare has soared, making adequate health insurance unaffordable for workers and their employers. Studies indicate that about 3,100 LAX workers lack health insurance, including 700 children. The wages of an additional 2,000 workers are so low that they qualify for state-funded medical care, researchers say.

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dan.weikel@latimes.com

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