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United Airlines ‘leading a race to the bottom,’ airport protesters claim

Thousands of workers showed up to protest at airports around the world, including Los Angeles International Airport, for better wages and safety conditions and the right to unionize.
Thousands of workers showed up to protest at airports around the world, including Los Angeles International Airport, for better wages and safety conditions and the right to unionize. SEIU Facebook Live screenshot

Thousands of airport workers turned out at 40 airports worldwide Tuesday to protest for better wages and safety conditions, as well as the right to union membership, as part of a global day of action organized by the Service Employees International Union’s Airport Workers United.

The protest, held in 13 countries, included airports in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Houston, Seattle and Portland in the U.S., and Seoul, Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt internationally.

“The global airline industry is leading a race to the bottom that’s hurting communities across the globe,” Stephen Cotton, general secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation, said in a statement.

A statement from the SEIU named United Airlines “as one of the worst offenders” in terms of collecting billions in both government subsidies and “excessive fees.”

While most of the airline’s non-management employees belong to a union, that is not the case for the airline’s contract employees, including “baggage handlers, security officers, cabin cleaners, janitors, wheelchair attendants,” according to the SEIU.

State Sen. Kevin de León, who is running for U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s seat, also issued a statement on behalf of the protesters.

“Major airlines take billions in tax dollars every year. They have the responsibility — and the ability — to stand up for good, union jobs and to stop driving a race to the bottom at airports around the world,” he said in prepared remarks.

A media representative for United Airlines, in an emailed statement, wrote that, “United Airlines is committed to treating all of our employees fairly, providing them with competitive compensation and industry-leading benefits and privileges and creating a safe, supportive work environment, whether or not they are represented by a union.”

It’s unclear whether the protests contributed to any passenger delays. A spokesman for Los Angeles International Airport did not return a request for comment.

Andrew Sheeler: 805-781-7934, @andrewsheeler
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