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Hunger Strikes, Marches and More as Los Angeles Service Workers Make Their Presence Felt on May Day

L.A. janitors and airport workers have been building momentum for a possible strike for weeks -- and they have big plans for May Day.

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  • Nearly 40% reported being injured on the job.

  • 45% have witnessed an accident involving another co-worker, passenger or other airport personnel -- close to half of those accidents resulted in hospitalization.

  • Almost 33% know of a former co-worker who suffered a permanently disabling injury on the job.

Here’s some stories of a couple of the people that were surveyed:

-Julio Echeverria, a ramp worker at LAX, slipped inside the cargo hold of a plane, slicing his leg on a metal piece of the cargo loader. Despite exposed knee bones, his manager refused to drive Echeverria to the clinic until the bleeding subsided so he would not “get blood all over the van.” Echeverria had surgery on his knee and was out of work for three months.

-Fernando Murillo, a ramp worker at LAX, donated a kidney to his wife, a procedure covered under a previous employer’s health plan. But now Murillo's health insurance only covers $50 dollars a month in prescriptions – not nearly enough for the monthly $633 in anti-rejection medication his wife requires. Murillo and his wife go to Tijuana for lab work and order prescriptions from Canada. The money they save is not enough to keep them from falling into credit card debt. Murillo's pay check comes well short of the $1,500 his family needs for rent every month. 

The list of irresponsible behavior of LAX contractors goes on. Of the people surveyed:

  • 20% witnessed an accident involving faulty or broken equipment.

  • 50% have to pay for the equipment they use at work including protective gear and cleaning supplies.

  • Workers report an average wage of $12.07 an hour.

  • Only 14% receive family health coverage.

  • 33% have no access to water on the job.

  • 14% have no access to bathrooms on the job.

On April 26, 2012 several airport workers went on a multi-day hunger-strike to protest working conditions at LAX. Each day, workers set up an encampment at the Tom Bradley International Departures Terminal, bringing visibility to their ongoing struggle. Workers plan to end their fast after the US Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, speaks at East Los Angeles City College. Each night, due to city regulations, workers took down their camp and slept at the nearby St. Jerome’s Church, maintaining both their fast and solidarity with one another.

Considering this is an internationally recognized airport it should be primed to invest in the community, yet much of the work conducted at the airport is contracted out to private firms. Airlines have placed us and workers on a downward spiral. Shouldn’t the airport be a place that works for everyone instead of a place where a cabin cleaner would have to work until 2688 to earn what Glen Tilton, the chairman of United Airlines, made in a single year? Airports are the key to our local economy.

All of these actions will culminate in a huge protest today, May 1, 2012. People from all over Los Angeles will march to Tom Bradley terminal in solidarity with the LAX workers. We will march in and around the terminals and demand a safe working environment with the people who risk their health working on the tarmacs and the people who clean the cabins, with people like Fernando Murillo and Julio Echeverria. These workers will protest beginning at 3am, as this is when it is most difficult for their jobs to be farmed out to other workers.

As Mike Garcia says, “There are two forms of power: money and people.” We know how to build people power. Ain’t no power like the power of the people, cause the power of the people don’t stop.