Hundreds of union workers at LAX march for better wages, healthcare

Hundreds of union workers at Los Angeles International Airport took to the streets—demanding better wages and healthcare.

During the march they carried a six-foot-tall birthday cake through the terminals. According to Andrew Hagelshaw of Service Employees International Union-United Service Workers West using the cake as a symbol was very significant to the workers.

They are calling on airlines like Southwest and American to stop undermining worker standards by "switching good union jobs to irresponsible contractors,'' like S.A.S. Services Group and JetStream, said Hagelshaw.

"Southwest Airlines recently celebrated their birthday and the $2.5 billion in profits they made last year,'' Hagelshaw said. "But their contracted workers were not invited to the party. So today we're having our own Fourth of July party to celebrate the nation's birthday and telling airlines like Southwest and American to support good union jobs and maintain high standards for airport workers so they can support their families instead of struggling to survive.''

Another important issue for the SEIU workers is health care and the costs of health insurance.

"When Southwest Airlines switched our work from a union contractor to a non-union contractor called S.A.S., I lost most of my health insurance,''

LAX passenger service employee Maria Romero said. "Now I can't afford to get new glasses, which makes it more difficult for me to monitor security cameras.''

Romero said because of the change, her work hours have been reduced, and she lost her seniority rights.

Barbara Gomez works as a cabin cleaner for American Airlines and said the airline's decision to use non-union contractor Jet Stream has been "horrible.''

"My former union employer used to have a high lift truck that would allow cleaners to get our carts right outside the cabin door,'' Gomez said.

"JetStream requires us to walk from plane to plane all night dragging our carts and climb stairs up to the planes with our heavy supplies.''

She said workers get soaked when it rains because Jet Stream does not provide rain gear to its employees.

The union claimed its members and other contracted airport workers help make soaring profits for the global airline industry "while struggling to make ends meet on low wages and often without benefits of paid days off.''

There was no immediate response from the contractors or LAX.

CNS contributed to this report