6 people arrested at LAX labor protest

Six people were arrested Friday evening as unionized airline caterers staged another demonstration at Los Angeles International Airport to highlight their demand for higher wages and expanded benefits.

The protest, staged as the holiday travel crunch got underway, resulted in six arrests of people suspected of failing to obey an order to disperse, according to Los Angeles Police Department Officer Drake Madison.

The arrested protesters had blocked traffic on Century Boulevard just outside the airport entrance, Madison said.

The caterers' union, UNITE HERE Local 11, staged a similar protest at LAX two days before Thanksgiving, resulting in 16 arrests for alleged failure to disperse.

The caterers work for LSG Sky Chefs and its subsidiary, Gate Gourmet, which contracts with American Airlines and other carriers.

According to the union, one in four workers with LSG Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet earn less than $12 per hour, including people who have worked for the companies for more than a decade. The union also contends that 33% of workers at LSG Sky Chefs at LAX had company healthcare in 2018, and 10% of that insurance covered dependents.

Calls to LSG were not immediately returned, but the company issued a statement in November saying, "Our negotiating team and a federal mediator have been working since May 2019 to negotiate in good faith with the union representing our employees. While this is a short period of time to negotiate a complex labor agreement, we feel progress is being made with the help of the federal mediator. We remain committed to negotiating in good faith."

American Airlines also provided a statement at the time, saying the carrier is "confident" in the negotiations, but it ultimately has no control over the labor talks.

Airport officials had advised travelers heading to LAX to allow extra time Friday to reach the Central Terminal Area.

Police stationed additional traffic officers in the area.

Roughly 5.9 million people are expected to pass through the airport during the Christmas and New Year's holiday travel period, which, as airport officials measure it, began last Friday and will continue through Jan. 6.

The busiest -- or "super peak" days -- are expected to include Sunday, Monday, the day after Christmas, Dec. 29 and Dec. 30. Travelers can follow the @FlyLAXAirport and @FlyLAXStats Twitter feeds for the latest update on traffic conditions in and near the airport and for other operational updates.